November 7, 2013

IconDid Ellen let down butch women by dressing up ‘sexy’ as Nicki Minaj?

Nicki Minaj or Ellen Degeneres?

So we’re all agreed that Ellen DeGeneres is, like, the best thing to happen to lesbians. Not only is she hilarious, she’s an openly gay woman who is popular on mainstream American TV. And there’s more. She’s butch.

For Halloween, Ellen ditched her normal butch wardrobe. Instead, she got together a humorous ensemble and dressed as Nicki Minaj, in a long bleach blonde wig, neon pink lipstick and – the cherries on this comical cake – gigantic fake breasts.

I’m hesitant as to how funny I find this, though. What is meant to be amusing? It’s not that dressing like Nicki Minaj is a fundamentally funny fashion choice. Based on some of the odd outfits Minaj has worn in her time, the all-black ensemble DeGeneres opted for is relatively tame. If this was where the comedy came from, Ellen’s outfit would be a disappointment.

Sadly no: the funniest thing appears to be that the overt feminine sexuality this Halloween-costume-complete-with-breasts suggests is at odds with what we connect with Ellen. Because as mentioned before, Ellen is butch.

I myself am on the butchy end of the spectrum. And as a butch myself, Ellen being one means a lot to me! There’s always talk of the lack of femme visibility, but the invisibility of masculine women exists not just in the lesbian community, but throughout the world. Clothes aren’t made to fit our bodies or in our sizes. Our way of dressing is glossed over.

Ellen is the only mainstream female celebrity whose outfits resemble something I’d wear myself.

Ellen opting for a feminine Halloween costume, therefore, really grated on me. Without even going into the issues I have as a feminist with Minaj’s large breasts and blatant sexuality being seen as funny, the hilarity of them on Ellen ties in with a stereotype I hate: that being butch makes a woman automatically unattractive.

Alex as Eddie Munster

Ellen’s costume derides from the idea that as a masculine woman, she is not a sexy figure, and therefore her emulating a celebrity who is thought of as sexy is comical. Worse still, Nicki Minaj herself shared a pic of Ellen dressed as her on her Instagram with the caption “I didn’t know Ellen could get any sexier”. The implication being that Ellen is not usually sexy.

Ellen’s costume choice brought back memories of people suggesting (again… and again… and again…) that I go “girly” for Halloween. This infuriating proposal was made by female acquaintances throughout my secondary school days. The unspoken idea was that they were intrigued to see if I’d miraculously meet their standards of being good-looking when wearing feminine clothes.

I once indulged this request, when I was about fourteen and already pretty effing butchy. I allowed myself to be put into a pink top, short skirt and make-up of a more girly kind than the four inches of black eyeliner I favoured at that age. The result was the majority of people thinking I hadn’t worn a costume and me feeling utterly uncomfortable all night.

Like with me wearing this outfit, and Ellen dressing up as Nicki, those whose fashion preferences match with the gender they were assigned at birth seem to find some fascination in wondering whether butches would look like “normal” people were they dressed in feminine outfits. Maybe these women might even pass the standards of being attractive! However, when people are disappointed by the end product, they do the next best thing: find it funny.

I hope Ellen enjoyed her outfit but if I’m honest, I wish she hadn’t indulged people’s fascination with what “The Girly Girl Beneath The Butch” looks like. However, it isn’t all bad news. It seems even some mainstream sites like Ellen the way she is. I was gratified to read Hollywood Life’s verdict: “we have to say we prefer Ellen in a suit and sneakers any day.” Hear, hear.

14 Responses to Did Ellen let down butch women by dressing up ‘sexy’ as Nicki Minaj?

  1. Chaks says:

    What a refreshing balanced article!

  2. Alex Samuel says:

    But thanks for defending my article, Milly :)

  3. tom says:

    are u fucking kidding me do u actually think she’s not wearing a shirt or a bra jesus fuck she’s clearly wearing fake tits and a fake ass as part of the costume, u clearly couldn’t even watch at least 2 mins of her show to notice the boobs weren’t real before making this morotic post. she’s not actually showing her boobs u fucking idiot. and she wasn’t showing any skin at all. it was all part of the costume oh my god how can someone be this fuccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkingggggggg duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmbbbbbbbbbbb ugh no wonder this place is called something like “lesbilicious”

    • Sara Newnes says:

      I may be wrong but it seems to me that you are kind of missing the point of the article. What I took from it was that by dressing ‘sexy’ for Halloween what is actually being said is that butch women are not sexy. Costumes are for people to dress up as something that they are not and so for Ellen (an apparently butch woman) to dress and be labelled as ‘sexy’ is actually putting down butch women’s appearance and can be taken as quite offensive. I’m not sure the fact that her skin and boobs were fake makes Alex’s article any less valid. I’m pretty sure most people’s costumes on Halloween were fake. It is what the costume was and what it represented that Alex is discussing not how real or fake it was.

      May I also suggest that you present your opinions in a less aggressive way. Most writers like to get feedback on their articles, however when they contain personal insults it is very unlikely they will be taken as valid comments to be responded to.

    • Sue Curley says:

      Tom, I think you will find that in the article Alex has actually used the phrase “gigantic fake breasts”. At what point did this comment lead you to believe that she thought they were real? Maybe you should read the piece more carefully before responding.

      This having been said, I enjoyed the article and think there were some good points, very eloquently made.

    • scouse says:

      Now now Tom, chill, no need to over the top geezer!

  4. amelia says:

    Hi, had mixed feelings about the article as think Ellen might have been sending up the ultra feminine music industry by parodying it, however, I am so glad you wrote it and brought butch perspective to the forefront, there is very little butch visibility these days so more is more I say x

  5. Lola says:

    Minaj did not imply that Ellen was not sexy before. What she implied was Ellen is normally sexy and she looked SEXIER.

    Totally twisting a quote to help your argument.

    I do acknowledge your point of view though and think you are an amazing writer. I enjoy reading your stuff most of the time. This article just irritates me.
    Each to their own I guess.

  6. Rosie says:

    Such a serious article…… it was Halloween, lighten up!

  7. scouse says:

    Yes, I totally agree, she did mean that, don’t jump on the bandwaggon, straight bashing to make the rest of us look ok, we don’t need any help!

  8. lindsey says:

    A lot of the backlash butch women get comes from other women. Its directed at the fact they come across as confident. Most women are taught to hate themselves under patriarchy.

Alex Samuel


Shit straight girls say to lesbians

The lesbian version of the ‘shit girls say…’ meme that’s been doing the rounds.

April 17, 2012