November 7, 2013
Did Ellen let down butch women by dressing up ‘sexy’ as Nicki Minaj?
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.
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.
Shit straight girls say to lesbians
The lesbian version of the ‘shit girls say…’ meme that’s been doing the rounds.
April 17, 2012