New lipstick lesbians are doing it for themselves
Latest guardian of Gotham likes kissing girls when she's not fighting the bad guys, writes Carol Hunt
She's 5'10". She's a redhead. She's just been announced as the permanent replacement for the recently deceased Bruce Wayne, aka Batman of DC Comics. (Oh sorry, didn't you know? Brucie has been 'proclaimed' dead.)
Her name is Kathy Kane -- she wears knee-high red boots and a figure-hugging black and red costume -- and did I mention she was gay?
Described as a "lesbian socialite by night and a crime fighter by later in the night", the rarely featured Batwoman, who has a romantic history with ex-police detective Rene Montoya, has now replaced the caped crusader as protector of Gotham City.
Yes, Batwoman kissed a girl and she liked it.
And she is just one of a plethora of 'lipstick' lesbians who have gone mainstream.
In case you're wondering -- a chap-stick lesbian is the old-school, super feminist, 'avoid men as much as possible' crewcut-sporting, dungaree-wearing, lesbian.
They are now sadly out of date and have been largely replaced in popular culture by 'lipstick' lesbians.
Lipstick lesbians are the good-looking, sexy, and feminine -- as opposed to feminist -- women who go for girl-on-girl action.
Many of them are bi-sexual and most are the stuff of every man's greatest fantasy.
Think Lindsey Lohan and Samantha Ronson, Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels, Bette and Tina from The L Word, Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni, Angelina Jolie and . . . ooh, down boy, down.
We also have 'fake lesbians', derided by the gay movement but adored by heterosexual men. These are the women who know that the easiest way to attract a man's attention is to start snogging her best friend in front of him.
A friend of mine ritually indulged in such antics, even going so far as to invite her friend join in with her and her boyfriend's sexual activities -- much to his delight. He wasn't so pleased however, when she eventually decided she preferred her friend to him.
The confused ex-boyfriend is now receiving therapy for emotional distress. Like so many men he still believes that 'real' lesbians are just ugly women who can't get a male date.
But not all lipstick lesbians are lightweight glamour girls. Recently we have seen the rise of the 'power lesbian' -- and not just in the cartoon world of comic books.
Last week saw the world's first openly gay leader taking control of a national government. Johanna Sigurdardottir, a 66-year-old former flight attendant and prominent lesbian, will be interim leader of Iceland until new elections are held in May.
One could of course, be a tad cynical and assert that it's just the age-old trick of sending in a woman to clean up a man's mess. And certainly there's a bit of truth in that.
But there seems to be more at work here. We've always had the power couple -- from Anthony and Cleopatra to Bill and Hillary Clinton -- but lately it's the lesbian power couple that seem to be getting all the headlines. (Okay, so there were rumours that Hillary was a lesbian, but knowing her instinct for PR she probably made that one up herself).
In the world of Lesbia, as with everything else, timing is everything.
Ellen De Generes -- a self-proclaimed chap-stick lesbian -- arrived a little early on the scene and was a bit too butch for male audiences: her TV show was cancelled a year after she came out. She made the mistake of being an apologetic lesbian, with most of her storylines centred around her gay 'problem'.
But then she hooked up with the glamorous Portia de Rossi and quickly became half of a lesbian power couple. The boys drooled -- and so did many of the women.
Massive career success followed. There is now even a website called AfterEllen.com which gives out Visibility Awards to honour the best and worst of lesbian and bisexual visibility in entertainment.
Another organisation devoted to promoting lesbian success is POWER UP -- led by gay couple Stacy Codikow and Lisa Thrasher, it's mission is to promote the visibility and integration of gay women in entertainment, the arts, and all forms of media.
Almost all of POWER UP's films have been official selections at Sundance yet Stacy modestly insists that neither she nor Lisa see themselves as a 'power couple' although that is exactly what they are.
And the drive to promote and publicise lesbian relationships seems to be working. When Susan Sontag died in early 2005, Patrick Moore lamented the fact that "editors at America's most respected, and liberal newspapers believe that one personal detail cannot be mentioned in even the most complete biography -- being a lesbian". He was referring to the fact that neither the New York nor Los Angeles Times mentioned the fact that famed photographer Annie Leibovitz was Sontag's long- time partner; neither did they mention her relationships with playwright Maria Irene Fornes or renowned choreographer Lucinda Childs.
In just four short years however, things have changed dramatically: women no longer feel the need to hide their same-sex relationships for fear of public reprisal, even the notoriously private actress Jodie Foster officially 'came out' last year as she thanked "my beautiful Cydney" after winning an award at the Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast in Los Angeles.
So even the pretty, feminine, lipstick wearing women would seem to be doing it for themselves -- as opposed to doing it for the boys.
A lot of men haven't quite cottoned onto this yet. When I asked a male friend for his views on lesbian power couples he insisted there was no such thing. Then he went on to make an extremely crude joke about "two blind lesbians walk into a f ... "
Oh, I can't repeat it; it's not even funny, and, although he, and the lads in the pub think it's hilarious, none of my female friends share their viewpoint, nor do they like their sex being ridiculed.
As one friend complained to me -- "it's enough to turn a girl gay!"