By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The cover story was problematic, and not because it's about lesbians. It states that rap videos "have long provided men of color with milestones on their journeys to manhood." I'm a man of color and I've never taken my cues for manhood milestones from rap videos. Moreover, everyone knows that the vast majority of consumers of rap music are white. So what exactly are white men taking from these videos and music? I'm sure your readers are concerned about the negative effects of hip-hop culture and rap music on whites. Secondly, for the record, hip-hop culture in general and rap music in particular does not equal black culture. Third, why does the story focus on Brooklyn lesbians? I'm sure there are lesbiansfemme and AGwho live in all five boroughs and around the country. Lastly, I thought the story portrayed lesbians of color (read: black and Latina) negatively. Would you write a similarly negative story about white butch lesbians? Probably not.
Part of me wants to commend you on shedding light on the AG voice, but a larger part sits very uneasy. I've seen profiles of these "aggressives" splashed across the pages of newspapers before, and to me it's so typical. I understand that a story must be newsworthy, that it should be new and different, or carry some sort of social consciousness or responsibility, but even under the most liberal assumptions this story discounts the voice of the lesbian I see. I see a lesbian who has nothing to prove, who is socially and emotionally grounded and makes no apologies for the life she lives. She carries herself with uncompromised dignity, and will rather die than get sweaty. She will two-step to R. Kelly, nod to Jeezy, and hold her lady close to Al Green. Please don't misunderstand me, I don't deny the opposite; the issues that plague today's youth extend to all branches. I am a femme lesbian who is known within the immediate community. I promoted parties, and still attend quite a few. I appreciate Madison and Kimmeee as promoters, but the Lab will never see a femme like me, even if I was 18. I am nowhere in line with this new "epic" of lesbianism. In any event, your article was successful in showing their "hyper-masculinity" and "thug-hop gone gay" mentality. In a pleasurable sense, you've exposed an ongoing joke within my circle: Today's youth lack the ability to pick sense out of nonsense.
Two days ago I strolled right by the current issue of the Voice because the person on the cover just looked like another rapper. However, when my eyes scanned down and saw the title in big, bold white letters, I went back to get a copy. I had to. After reading the first two paragraphs I was mortified. After forcing myself to read the rest I was beyond upset, but I had to stop and think about everything: Hilliard's observations, the subjects's quotes, and my own observations. I didn't want to be biased and decided to wait a day or two before sending my comments to you as well as publishing them on my blog. My thoughts now are that though I hate what the article has the potential to do to the image of lesbians of color, it will open up a dialogue that has been a long time coming within our community. If these women don't want to be referred to as trying to imitate men and truly embrace their womanhood, then they should cease being called Uncle, Father, Boi, etc. The term aggressive, though used within our community as a positive term for women who take on roles that are traditionally those of men, is by definition pushy, boldly assertive, and forward. It's not the best word to describe what these women think they are. What these women want to be recognized as are the provider, the caretaker, the protector of their feminine girlfriend or perhaps even the breadwinner in the household, which is not something that is new. What is new and gravely disturbing is the influence of hip-hop upon young lesbians, but that is another topic altogether. I know that once I publish my blog I will get some negative responses because I know a few of the women you interviewed. We used to be in some of the same circles, but have grown in extremely different ways over the last couple of years. I understand that they are hurt by your portrayal. I was hurt and embarrassed by it, and wondered if you were exaggerating. But as I said, having time to think about it and re-read the article allowed me to look at it for what it is. What you saw was what you saw. A lot of people see it and base their opinions of lesbians of color as a whole solely upon the young women they see frequenting the village and parties.
Cheril N. Clarke
As Executive Director of Sistahs in Search of Truth, Alliance, and Harmony (S.i.S.T.A.H.), an organization dedicated to addressing the needs of lesbian, bisexual, SGL, and transgender women of color, Chloé Hilliard's article depicting women as thugs, hoods, and gangsters concerned and disappointed me. Hilliard's perception of women who display themselves in a negative light does not incorporate every woman who identifies as aggressive or femme. Women in my organization who identify themselves as AGs or femmes are hardworking, are educated, own homes, have their own businesses, and maintain family and relationships. There are even organizations like Sophisticated Aggressive Gents that mentor and exchange positive information with women who are coming out as AGs and teach them to respect themselves and the women that they may involve themselves with. Women, whatever roles they take on, are different and should be seen as such.
Executive Director, S.i.S.T.A.H.