Tag Archives: Patriarchy

An Open Letter to Alison Bechdel (Review: “The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For”)

Dear Alison Bechdel,

By Michael Rhode (101_3633 Alison Bechdel) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thank you.

I know, I know, you’ve received ten-thousand letters like this but let’s make it ten-thousand-and-one, shall we?

I grew up a queer outcast in a very heterosexual little rural farming town. My exposure to any sort of queer identities was limited to the occasional “let’s be nice to people” discussion in class. At a very young age I identified as not comfortable with how I related to heteronormativity. True, I didn’t always have the vocabulary to express my thoughts on my gender/sexual identity but I was aware enough to recognize that I was different.

I didn’t have the sorts of role models that my normative friends had. Where were the male superheroes that wore pink and why couldn’t Luke and Han make out? (Answer: Because Luke’s a weenie and Han and Leia are bad-ass soul-mates.) What I did have was 7-Days, the alternative paper that my parents brought home every two weeks. I thank my agnostic deity(ies) that I was introduced to 7-Days while in elementary school. Not only did their “Hot2Trot” personal section help guide me through puberty but it introduced me to your comic.

When I read Dykes to Watch Out For I had role models, I had superheroes. A bearded dad in a utility kilt and a transgender teen and people of color (I’m from the second whitest state in the union so this point is particularly important) and liberal intellectuals and queersDykes to Watch Out For was my exposure to the idea that queers came in all shapes and sizes and that we didn’t have to confirm to stereotypes. Yes, I was a male with same-sex attractions but that didn’t mean I had to be limp wristed and lisping (though I do have a bit of a Jon Inman wrist). There’s nothing wrong with happening to share characteristics with society’s ideas of queers but you helped me see that I didn’t need to let it define me.

For a young boy who was being introduced to sex primarily by his male, similarly aged friends (all of whom had very cis-centered, heterosexual, patriarchy themed ideas about sex that they wanted to share) Dykes to Watch Out For also expanded my ideas about what sex could mean. Your cartoons regularly covered discussions about sex as well as depictions of responsible and healthy sex. I can distinctly remember reading a strip featuring masturbation and realizing, “Oh! I can do that! And that’s not a bad thing and in fact it seems like it’s a good thing!” So on behalf of the sexually frustrated adolescent who relied on masturbation to help get him through years of celibacy I must offer you a tremendous THANK YOU.

One thing that I can’t thank you for is inspiring in me the idea that I could easily find a community like the one you wrote about. First of all I assumed that all the action in DtWOF took place in Burlington, a mere forty-five minutes from my house. I believe it was sometime when I was in high school and your book Fun Home was being promoted that I found out that the city was probably somewhere near Michigan. (I was actually really upset when I found this out.) Even with the knowledge that Burlington wasn’t the city you were writing about I still figured that if I went to a medium/small-sized liberal city then I’d find the queers. Well, Ms. Bechdel, I went to the University of Vermont for a year-and-a-half and didn’t meet as many queers as I would’ve liked. My own antisocial nature and reluctance to interact with humanity might have been a stumbling block but if Mo could find friends like that then why couldn’t I? (Side note- I’m now in Amherst and there are a lot more active queers so things might not be as bleak as I once thought.)

Reading The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For brought me back to my days of smuggling a 7-Days into my room and losing myself in the black-and-white lines of Mo and Co.’s endless pursuit of life, liberty and the perfect lentil soup. I tore through The Essential (even setting aside the book on Catholic priests in Protestant England I was currently reading, so you know, it was pretty serious) only to find myself reaching the end far too soon. When I closed the book I could feel my heart sinking as I realized that the lives of characters who I love and adore were frozen in perpetuity. The ending wasn’t all pain though as I found the fire you helped to light all those years ago suddenly flare up as it feasted. Not only was there a rekindling but a new fire was lit. I’m older and a different person than when I first read DtWOF and I’ve found new ways to connect with the work. Now I’m super-charged and ready to take on the patriarchy. I’m looking for my own Mad Wimmin Books and searching for my own Stuart/Ginger/Clarice (Hey, it’s not my fault you wrote such wonderful characters that I want to be in relationships with.) It’s time to be subversive and time to be radical and time to kvetch over hummus.

Thank you, Ms. Bechdel.


Yours most humbly and sincerely,

Samuel Aloysius Zaber

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For; Alison Bechdel; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company, copyright 2008.


Christmas Baking

This Christmas I’m getting* crafty. Hand knitted scarves, linoleum block stamps, jars of cookie dough and similar gifts. A few of my relatives are getting a miscellany of baked goods in festive tins. These are the recipes that I’ll be using to make this yuletide gay:

*”Dark and Damp Molasses Cake” (TheKitchn.com): Yeah, I know it’s a really bad idea to use untested recipes for gifts but I lost the molasses cake recipe that I used to have and it was an emergency and I have relatives who are kind of fond of molasses and I love baking with molasses and this sentence needs to be done. The warning that this cake is for serious molasses fans only is not to be taken lightly. I’d also like to remind people that this cake should be taken out of the oven when the timer goes off. There was a lot going on when I was doing my baking and I might’ve left it in the for a few extra minutes. The extra minutes only make the edges a bit harder than I would’ve like but the taste wasn’t damaged.

*”Gateau A L’Orange” (Orange Spongecake) (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, link to WeekendCooking.wordpress.com): This cake was my second recipe from Mastering and it’s a really simple recipe. Without the whole beating-the-egg-whites-into-peaks bit this is actually one of the easiest recipes I can think of. The result is delicious although I can’t vouch for the recommended orange frosting as I’ve never actually attempted it, I keep meaning to but…

*”Golden Eggs” (Confections of  a Closet Master Baker, link to epicurious.com): I first came across this recipe in Gesine Bullock-Prado’s wonderful (and delicious) memoir/cookbook. The batter produces a rich nutmeg-y product that I bake into cakes rather than the muffins/eggs that Ms. Bullock-Prado recommends. I’ve found that this batter fits into an 11×7-in baking dish with enough leftover to make a little cake with my heart-shaped baking dish (45 minutes or so should be good). The cinnamon, sugar and butter mixture that’s intended for making the eggs extra lovely can be made into a nice streusel topping for the cakes. Also, I get that epicurious.com is a cool website and all but if it’s possible y’all need to get your hands on a copy of Confections (local bookstores anyone?).

*”Easy No-Chill Cookies” (Food.com): I used this recipe for the first time last weekend when it suddenly hit me that I was going to leave for my friend’s in a few hours and I didn’t have time to let sugar cookie dough I needed for her present** to rest in a refrigerator. Google came to my rescue and now here I am. The recipe is pretty straightforward but learn from my mistakes and make sure that the dough is even when rolled out; I had some cookies come out much thinner than others and they became a very nice shade of crispy black while their thicker siblings were lovely.

*Look at me not using the past tense. Good on you for noticing that! Here’s a cookie. I’m writing this paragraph on the Sunday before Christmas but I’m posting this on the Wednesday after Christmas to prevent sensitive gift related information leaking to the wrong sources (Yes, by wrong sources I totally mean FIS agents. Getting my gift related information is a main priority for the KGB’s successor.)

**I made a variety of sex-positivity sugar cookies for her. These cookies included ones shaped liked penises, vaginae (This is the only plural form that Google Chrome’s spell-check will accept. Does anyone know anything about this?) and breasts, as well as a few labelled “Patriarchy” and “Slut Shaming” (Why fuck the patriarchy when you can eat it instead?). I was very proud of my work. This is me making the “Patriarchy” cookie:

Photo credit to Madeleine Madigan. Check out her Facebook page.