Wester&Lacroix.Seeing Straight Throught the Queer Eye

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the

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Unformatted text preview: Communication at the College of Charleston. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the International Communication Association. The authors would like to thank Linda Steiner and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable contributions. Correspondence to: Robert Westerfelhaus, Department of Communication, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424-0001, USA. Tel: '/1 843 953 6533; Email: westerfelhar@cofc.edu ISSN 0739-3180 (print)/ISSN 1479-5809 (online) # 2006 National Communication Association DOI: 10.1080/07393180601046196 D o w n l o a d e d B y : [ O h i o S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y L i b r a ri e s ] A t : 1 7 : 4 5 7 J u n e 2 0 0 7 Seeing ‘‘Straight’’ through Queer Eye 427 series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Collins, Williams, & Metzler, 2005). In keeping with the series’ tongue-in-cheek mission of ‘‘building bridges one manicure at a time,’’1 the gay men treated the ballplayers to manicures, as well as floral footbaths, the waxing of body hair, and other deliciously decadent grooming practices. Not long ago, the thought of televising major male sports stars and openly gay men working and socializing together in this way would have seemed as improbable as a Red Sox World Series championship. On the surface, the casual ease with which the show’s gay men entered one of our culture’s bastions of hypermasculinity, and the warm welcome they received there, seems to suggest that Queers have finally entered the American mainstream. Indeed, as Frank Rich (2003) observed in The New York Times when Bravo announced that it would air television’s first gay reality series, Boy Meets Boy , much had changed in the few years that separated that historic programming move and the controversial 1997 coming out episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ ABC sitcom, Ellen . According to Rich, gays and lesbians are more visible than ever, and the vast majority of heterosexual viewers seemingly accept this visibility. Neither this visibility nor this acceptance is unconditional. While Queers are now permitted access to the media mainstream, they are welcome there only so long as they observe certain limits imposed upon them by the conventions of the mainstream’s heterosexist sociosexual order. In the past, the dominant features of this order were clearly articulated through the promulgation of restrictive secular laws and the preaching of an equally limited * and limiting * view of moral law. Today, popular culture exercises perhaps the greatest influence in promoting * and policing * the values of heteronormativity. As we shall point out in this study, these heteronormative values are so pervasive that they inform such ostensibly ‘‘gayfriendly’’ fare as the television series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy . These values have been rendered so normal, in fact, that their presence in such a series is taken for granted, which speaks to the power of heteronormative discourse and the need for continued Queer critiques of such. Queer Theory and the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity During the past several decades, the field of Queer studies has done much to chart the social construction of sexual desire, the creation of sexual communities, and the ways in which people have been oppressed, marginalized, or symbolically annihilated because their sexual orientations lie, as Erni (1998) puts it, ‘‘outside of foundationalist gender and sexual norms’’ (p. 161) that support and are supported by mainstream society’s heterosexist order. Queer sexuality challenges that order by calling into question the heteronormative assumptions, attitudes, and values informing it. Herman (2003) defines heteronormativity as the view that heterosexuality is natural and normal for individuals and society: ‘‘[H]eteronormativity does not just construct a norm, it also provides the perspective through which we know and understand gender and sexuality in popular culture’’ (p. 144). As Berlant D o w n l o a d e d B y : [ O h i o S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y L i b r a ri e s ] A t : 1 7 : 4 5 7 J u n e 2 0 0 7 428 R. Westerfelhaus & C. Lacroix and Warner (1995) point out, this perspective privileges heterosexuality. It does so in ways not always obvious and often invisible (Yep, 2003). As Dyer (2002) argues: Heterosexuality as a social reality seems to be invisible to those who benefit from it. In part, this is because of the remorseless construction of heterosexuality as normal. If things are natural, they cannot really be questioned or scrutinized and so they fade from view. Such naturalization often characterizes how we see, and don’t see, the powerful; how they see, and don’t see, themselves. (p. 119) The invisibility of heterosexual power and privilege to those who possess and benefit from such is strikingly similar to the invisibility of the power and privilege associated with whiteness as experienced from a ‘‘white’’ perspective. Dyer (1997) comments, ‘‘as lon...
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This note was uploaded on 01/20/2014 for the course ARTEDUC 2367.03 taught by Professor Tiffanylewis during the Spring '14 term at Ohio State.

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