Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: That’s Revolting! by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

That’s Revolting!
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Published by Soft Skull Press

Review by Aundi Howerton


With seven new essays, this second edition collection addresses, as editor Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore writes in the introduction, “a radical queer intervention in the culture wars.” Bernstein and fellow contributors do more than just critique the contemporary homosexual ambitions to assimilate into the “holy trinity of marriage, military service and adoption,” but call such acts those of “violence” and “cultural erasure” that ultimately support U.S. imperialism. The collection is as much a call for reconstruction as a call for equal rights, vying that the status quo is not something to be attained but something that isn’t working at all.

The book also offers an excellent survey of recent American queer activism history, both inspiring and at times uncomfortable, a compelling read for anyone, queer or not, fresh out of the closet, dissatisfied with the homogeneity of their subculture, or just willing to have their assumptions turned out about what it means to be queer and have power. The essays cover a historical range of activist groups and trajectory-altering events, including the Stonewall riots, the Gay Liberation Front, ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Fed Up Queers, and Gay Shame, as well as detailing various artistic movements and individual plights.

Throughout, despite heavy attention to organized activism, the writers and subjects share the powerful theme of the human body as site of resistance. From barricade to nut busting, Mattilda and crew take the power of change away from the lawmaker and deliver it back to the individual bodily experience. Don’t expect a feel-good read, however. You won’t love everything in this book. And that’s the point. The essays reinforce that being queer is not about sameness; it’s about beading the fault line, being a part of the state of emergency, refusing the assimilation that disenfranchises that volatile power of difference which invokes change.

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