5 Thoughts About “The Mean Girls of Morehouse”
1. Last week, one of my homegirls sent me a text suggesting I write something up about HBCU homecoming weekends. According to her, they’re an endless reservoir of hilarity and revelry, a place where “…educated negroes go to get it poppin, eat fish sandwiches, party on the Greek plots, and get pregnant“. When I reminded her I didn’t attend an HBCU and I’ve never actually been to any college homecoming event (This may be a regional thing. I could be wrong, but the whole homecoming thing seems to be a bigger deal with southern colleges and universities in general), she basically stated this is exactly why I should try to attend one and write about it. Although I’m not a complete outsider, my lack of exposure to and experience with HBCU homecoming culture would allow me to see things with fresh eyes without worrying about any contextual baggage clouding my vision.
Anyway, while I probably won’t be doing any HBCU homecoming write-ups any time soon, this same “somewhat, but not really educated” outsider perspective applied when crafting my thoughts about “The Mean Girls of Morehouse”, Aliya S. King’s Vibe magazine piece about “The Plastics”—a group of cross-dressing gay men at Morehouse College. (The title itself is an allusion to Mean Girls, a movie where an elusive clique of girls—The Plastics—socially dominated a high school)
2. Of the myriad feelings this article induced (wonder, shock, hunger, etc), one was much more prominent than the rest: Pity.
I’m far from an expert in human sexuality, but something has to be seriously off with man so uncomfortable with his own skin that he takes female hormones to feel more normal. And while this may be an excessively “heteronormative” way of seeing things, I can’t help but feel bad for men whose sexual and social heteromorphicness will be the butt of jokes, the target of ridicule, and the object of abject disrespect for the rest of their time on Earth.
3. I don’t know if this was intentional, but the numerous references in King’s piece to the food each of the Plastics happened to be eating when she interviewed them (“Nibbling on sushi…“, “…nibble on biscuits…“, “Sipping martinis and eating chicken wings…“) did the impossible task of making them seem even more effeminate than they already were. Actually, I’m certain this was intentional, and I wonder why King felt the need to go there.
I also wonder if there’s any possible way that food eating could be conveyed in a “masculine” manner. It just seems like whenever a man is described eating food, it effeminizes him, and I have no idea why it is. Maybe “Between violent bites of an aged porterhouse and shots of Patron off of the grits and silicone enhanced booty of Cubana Lust…“, would work, but that’s about it.
4. “The article, which I haven’t actually taken the time to sit down and read yet, is probably fucked up. We will continue to stand by our values, which apparently include writing scathing letters in response to things that haven’t actually happened yet”—A cliffnotes summary of Morehouse College president Robert M. Franklin’s letter to Morehouse alums (dated 10/9/10), addressing the “Mean Girls” article (which posted 10/11/10).
Never mind the troubling fact that the president of one of the most storied and prestigious universities in the country publicly and brazenly admitted to not actually reading an article before firing off a reflexive missive to it, I just wonder if President Franklin approaches other areas of his life with the same mindset. Would he file for divorce from his wife today because he heard she’s going to cheat on him in 2016? Does he own a bunch of “Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Super Bowl Champs” t-shirts and commemorative coffee cups? Has he ever fired a secretary for forgetting to remind him about his own funeral? If there’s anyone reading this with intimate knowledge of Franklin’s day-to-day doings, please let me know.
5. Although I do sympathize with how I imagine a person must feel when told their way (of dress, of behavior, of speaking) is wrong and worthy of reprimand (especially if the “way” isn’t harming anyone), I just can’t side with people who feel the Morehouse community should be much more understanding and accepting of the Plastic’s plight. I actually think it’s rather audacious for a person (or group of people) to suggest an institution with a centuries old way of doing things make concessions for a few exhibiting intentionally abnormal and bizarre behavior¹. And yes, while being gay isn’t abnormal or bizarre by any stretch of the imagination, going so far to appear as a woman that you rock pumps and pop female hormone pills definitely is. A private all-male institution asking men to not act and dress like women isn’t a fight for equal rights, a damning example of the constrictive nature of patriarchy, or an indictment of the black community’s latent homophobia. It’s just a private all-male institution asking men to not act and dress like women.
As Brian “Bri” Alston states in the article “They (Morehouse) don’t know what to do with us.” After reading about the Plastics, I wouldn’t know what the hell to do either.
¹I’m aware of the argument that Morehouse officials don’t enforce the parts of the dress code dealing with saggy pants and hats in class with the same energy as the parts dealing with nontraditional male dress. But, while I understand why people feel this is a double standard, from a logistics stand point it’s much, much easier to notice a 6’4” man with pumps and skinny jeans than a guy whose pants happen to be a couple inches off of his waist. This is less apples and oranges than apples and hand grenades.