Something’s been gnawing at me. If you follow me on instagram you may have seen a couple long-winded, text-heavy story posts about straight women and their bizarre relationship to same-sex attraction. These thoughts have been brewing in the back of my mind – but what was the last drop?
The Desi Perkins x Katy DeGroot collab with Dose of Colors.
Let me preface this by saying that this is not an attack. This is a criticism. It’s not about these individual women – it’s about a structure, a trend and a culture which they have had the misfortune to exemplify. Wrong time, wrong place, Desi and Katy. I’ll admit I’m not very familiar with their content. These two women are beauty bloggers who also happen to be best friends, and they frequently collaborate or feature each other in their content. They have been invited to work with brands on their own products, most notably dose of colors which is the brand behind the latest launch. Let’s look at the marketing materials.
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The image above was posted as a teaser for the upcoming collaboration – a collection of products with names like “friendcation” and “just a kiss” and “hey girl”. The promo photos, of which there are a handful spread across social media, feature Desi and Katy in sensual or romantic poses, in each others arms, one pinning the other to the wall, or appearing to have been caught mid-cuddle. The images are tagged with #bffgoals or #friendshipgoals.
It’s a bizarre contrast – the vaguely eroticized images of two women in romantic scenarios paired with claims of platonic friendship. It’s not just these specific bloggers who do this – virtually any pair of female public figures will jazz up their friendship with suggestive imagery if needed. A recent beauty collab between Kylie Jenner and her best friend Jordyn Woods features much of the same sapphic undertones – one photo depicts one girl in the other’s lap as they lounge around.
The strange thing is, straight women are crazy about other women. Women’s magazines are full of beautiful women in varying poses, some dressed in lingerie or swimwear. Girls make out with each other at parties for fun and for attention, being “completely straight”. They’ll say they wish they were dating their best friend, or they’ll say they wish they could be gay. They’ll gush over, admire, compliment, touch each other with great enthusiasm.Women call each other wives and girlfriends or crushes, but it’s all very tongue in cheek, never presented as sincere.
The thing is, I don’t necessarily think they don’t mean what they say and do.
I think a lot of women who identify publicly as straight are in fact not. Why would girls say these things if they didn’t mean it? It’s as if there’s a fear of showing your sincerity, because that would break the rules of the game in which love for women can be safely explored without commitment or sacrifice. It’s fine to “experiment” with other women, as long as you’re not actually gay or bisexual. The denial of genuine romantic or sexual feelings shields you from being found out and exiled from your social group. Heterosexual identity becomes an alibi. Pretending you don’t have those feelings, so that you can act on those feelings.
Needless to say, I am befuddled.
To a lesbian, this tendency of straight women to behave in suggestive, romantic or sexual ways with other women looks like a big trap outlined in neon lights. Gay and Bi women can’t play along, we can’t tell those jokes, because for us it is not a joke but our lives. Any one of us knows the feeling of being outed and immediately seen as a threat. Having to change in the restroom not the locker room, because the other girls are creeped out by you being there. Being avoided, uninvited, bullied. Having other girls afraid of any physical contact, no matter how innocent.
When a straight friend says “I wish I was a lesbian!” we can’t tell her to give it a shot. No matter how lighthearted our tone, we’ll be taken as creepy. Even if giving it a shot is what she wants.
Header: Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mitylene, 1864, Simeon Solomon