Jewish World Review March 23, 2000/ 16 Adar II, 5760
The Defense of Marriage Act, which enables the states to ban gay marriages, and Proposition 22 in California, which limits marital unions in that state to a man and a woman, have been big losers for the gay community. On the other hand, Vermont is about to enact the legal "equivalent'' of gay marriage.
But if homosexuals are finding it hard to persuade American society that they should marry like straights, they're finding only rear-guard resistance to their influence in the culture. Homosexuals have marched out of the closet in fashions that determine what's chic, at least in some places.
Trendy styles for women that de-emphasized curves and cleavage in favor of skinny bodies and flat chests are often attributed to homosexual designers. And now gays are achieving an astonishing influence in feminizing a lot of men.
The spring issue of "Men's Fashions of the (New York) Times,'' features models whose faces and figures make it difficult to tell the sexes apart. A glamorous Versace ad is so fetchingly fey that the male model looks more feminine than the female. Two men in a double-page spread for Gucci wear deep pink lipstick and shirts unbuttoned to the lower half of their chest. (Gone is the extra crispy chest hair; these male models wax their chests smooth.)
The cover portrait of David Bowie, who frequently goes for the androgynous look, is particularly "feminine.'' If you didn't know him as a rock star, you couldn't be sure whether he was male or female. He apologizes for earlier fashion limitations: "A feather boa will only go so far.''
Male fashion has always appealed to male vanity but masculinity was once the measure of man. No longer. Walk up to any cosmetic counter and you'll find almost as many jars of ointments for men as for women. David Blum, who initially researched the subject of male make-up as a reporter, tells how he came to rely on an exfoliant cleanser, two moisturizers (tinted and white) and bronzing powder. He's grown accustomed to the glowing skin.
Homosexual influence expands beyond fashion and cosmetics. The University of Michigan fall catalog describes a 3-credit course on how to be a homosexual, examining cultural artifacts and clues for being gay: "Hollywood movies, grand opera, Broadway musicals, and other works of classical and popular music, as well as camp, diva-worship, drag, muscle culture, style, fashion and interior design.'' The professor promises to teach his students to learn how certain works are essential parts of the gay male lifestyle.
A quick look at the Academy Award nominations tells why the Advocate, the national gay and lesbian newsmagazine, is so thrilled with the Oscar possibilities. "American Beauty,'' a strong contender for best picture, is written by a homosexual and dramatizes a hideous heterosexual marriage. (It makes you wonder why gays would want to imitate straight nuptials.) The movie celebrates a nice boy-boy couple next door and rages against a stereotypical military homophobe.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley,'' with five nominations, depicts a "gay serial killer'' and "lavishes sympathy on his plight.'' "All About My Mother,'' nominated for best foreign film, is written by a homosexual and is "the only nominee with both a transgendered hustler-father and a pregnant nun.'' Tom Cruise, nominated for best supporting actor, plays a crude and vulgar heterosexist male and teases audiences by showing "Cruise in tighty whiteys.'' "Fight Club,'' nominated only for punchy sound effects, nevertheless offers "beautiful boys beating up on each other.''
Susan Faludi, in "Stiffed,'' a book about modern male dilemmas, argues that the man of the '90s has become "ornamental,'' a sex object like certain women in the '50s, "pedestal-perching and mirror-gazing.'' In the culture of fitness, "pecs'' are as important as breasts. Manliness, no longer defined by rugged work, descends into decoration.
But the influence of homosexuality in an age of prosperity is a primary influence, too. When heterosexual men and women of the middle class worry about raising children, paying for private schools and college educations, many homosexuals have large disposable incomes to spend on themselves to define the trendy. A chronicler of the homosexual life-style captures this sentiment in a slogan for the gay '90s of the last decade: "MasterCharging our way to liberation.''
You don't have to be a homophobe or a fundamentalist Christian to understand why heterosexuals are
defensive about marriage. Marriage may be the last refuge of a heterosexual
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus