Friday, 8 April 2011

Bieber and the Benders

The Justin Bieber lesbian look-a-like brigade needn’t search any further. New YouTube sensation Dani Shay is the real dead-ringer.

Just as YouTube spewed out the fresh-faced ‘tween Justin Bieber way back when, it’s propelled the 22-year-old Dani Shay to little short of stardom. Her cover of ‘Love The Way You Lie’ on YouTube suddenly went viral in the space of 24 hours, and newspapers from the Telegraph to the Metro are reporting quite seriously on the uncanny resemblance. Newsworthy stuff indeed.

Most appalling about this whole debacle is that nearly every commenter on the YouTube video—and news article—feels it necessary to comment on the gender or speculated sexuality of Dani Shay.

Despite many articles bluntly claiming that Dani is a lesbian, I could find no proof of this anywhere on the internet. Although she may very well be a lesbian, making this presumption because her doppelganger happens to be a 17-year-old boy is not just stupid, but bigoted.

The comment threat on YouTube is a treasure trove of patriarchy, gender stereotypes, homophobia and just sheer ignorance. Gems like “Are you a boyish kind of girl?” or “ohhh so she’s a girl… a lesbi [sic]?” demonstrate just how entrenched gender stereotypes still are. Even the more offensive “A LESBIAN. EWWWW” is not only homophobic but also patriarchal. The idea that a girl needs to look and act a certain way in order to be recognised as both a girl and heterosexual is simply outrageous. When will people learn that gender is fluid? And why oh why can’t people understand that gender and sexuality are two different things?

The irony is that the confused fascination around Dani’s gender and sexuality kind of proves my point. One comment reads, “have never been this sexually confused in my life,” while another says “cutie, are you a woman? Sure?”

If you identify as a lesbian, does that mean you’re not allowed to fancy Justin Bieber, but Dani Shay is fair game? What are you basing this on? The genitalia you imagine that person to have?

The latent subtext of all this speculation around Dani’s gender and sexuality appears to come down to the question of ‘Am I allowed to fancy her?’ – I find myself reveling in other people’s sexual confusion. Confusion is the first step to questioning or preconceived notions of what a girl/boy/lesbian/heterosexual should be, and ultimately breaking free of our prejudices.

That, and it’s just so much fun to see a straight girl squirm when she realises she fancies another girl…

Dani, we love you not because you look like Justin Bieber, but because you’re challenging stereotypes. So bring on the gender benders – we can all benefit from a spot of sexual confusion now and then.

Words: Iman Qureshi