On Brittney Griner, AzMarie, And Girl Crushes: Are We Moving Away From A Dependency On Sexual Labels?

April 22, 2015  |  
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I was recently listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Read, and they were playing the game F**k, Marry, Kill. This lighthearted social icebreaker game, usually played over a few spirited beverages, asks players to choose whom they would f**k, marry, and kill out of three people. Usually, players are given a list of celebrities, but with added alcohol consumption, over time the names listed can shift from celebrity eye candy to people everyone in the group knows.

Crissle, The Read’s female co-host, was made to choose between Brittney Griner, AzMarie Livingston, and Queen Latifah. Of those three names I was only familiar with Queen Latifah, so I did what any inquisitive mind should do: I turned to my trusty friend Google. I searched for Brittney Griner first and was directed to her Facebook page. Griner, 24, is the 2014 WNBA Defensive Player of Year, stands 6’8” tall with an 88-inch wingspan, and a wears a men’s size 17 shoe. She is the author of the memoir In My Skin: My Life On and Off The Basketball Court.

I went on to search for AzMarie Livingston. Born Ashley Marie Livingston (she has fused her first and middle name together), she is a model and actress standing 5’10” tall. She appeared on America’s Next Top Model: British Invasion and was known for her elaborate tattoos and androgynous style. She recently appeared on the hit Fox show Empire as Chicken, one of Hakeem Lyons’s homies and his designated driver.

Both women are openly gay. Griner is engaged to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson, and Livingston has been rumored to be in a relationship with actress Raven-Symoné.

Reading about these two women, their accomplishments thus far, and their fearlessness to be who they are while standing firm in their beliefs, was inspiring. What baffled me most, however, were comments that alleged heterosexual women posted under their pictures:

“I would go completely gay for this woman!”

“Laaawd have mercy.”

“#WCW hell #WCE” which means “Woman Crush Wednesday” and “Woman Crush Every Day.”

“She is so fine she’s making me sexually confused.”

“You are so hot, my boyfriend would kill me if he saw this.”

“I would date you and I’m not even gay.”

“Big crush on you.”

“porqué eres tan hermosa?” which translates to, “Why are you so beautiful?”

“These women looking like men will have you all messed up mentally. Mmmm.”

“Only if I was a lesbian…she’s sooooo…”

“Just give me one gay night!”

Reading such comments had me thinking, have society’s sexual labels officially been broken? If women are openly fawning over other women, do such labels really matter? Religious author Michael W. Hannon discusses this concept in his article Against Heterosexuality, which gives an in-depth overview of the historical construction of sexual orientation. Hannon writes:

Such thinkers echo Gore Vidal’s LGBT-heretical line: “Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person.” True, the firm natural division between the two identities has proven useful to the “gay rights” activists on the ground, and not least of all for the civil-rights-era ethos such power dynamics conjure up. But most queer theorists—and, for that matter, most academics throughout the humanities and the social/behavioral disciplines today—will readily concede that such distinctions are fledgling constructs and not much more.

Writer Rebecca Vipond Brink counters Hannon’s argument in her article, Why Labels for Sexual Identities Are Useful For Everyone. In it she discusses the importance of accuracy when labeling sexual identities. Brink says, “It is accuracy we are looking for when we decide to label ourselves with increasingly complex and specific terms. My feeling is that having a word for our sexual feelings helps us to feel less weird and alone.”

I have no way of knowing if the women who commented under Griner and Livingston’s photos would act on their desires or if their comments were all smoke and mirrors shared anonymously behind a keyboard. Still, these “girl crushes” seem to blur the lines when it comes to how stringent people have been when it comes to sexual labels and orientation.

However, I will say that there were far more disrespectful comments towards these young women than positive ones filled with swoons and lust. Women complimenting and uplifting each other should be the norm. No matter one’s choice of sexual identification, or the choice to be labeled by one’s sexuality, being respected regardless of choice is an inherent right.



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