politics and rhetoric of spaces

This last six months have made me think quite a bit about the politics of spaces, and the rhetoric surrounding those spaces. Two “events” in particular. For the queer community in town, there’s our local bar, Chumley’s, which is a great place for meeting people, even if it’s very tiny. Before January, there was one other real location, dance night at Indigo on Sundays. Then, in January, a new bar, Mezzanine, started promoting gay dance nights on Sunday. The politics around this has been interesting: debates about “tradition,” free market competition, exploiting a marginalized yet willing-to-spend market (why Sundays? an excellent question). I won’t go into details about this whole thing. It’s really become quite exhausting in some ways.

But more recently, it was announced that Webster’s, the local bookstore and cafe downtown, would be closing at the end of July because their lease was not being renewed. This is the place where I first felt at home here, where I could go and see people who didn’t fit the PSU standard mold. Also, it was one of the few places in town that provided great vegan food, great coffee, and a wonderful atmosphere. What’s been especially awesome is how community members have been rallying around Webster’s—how in it’s 11 or so years here, it’s become the center of downtown, and community members aren’t letting it go without a fight. My amazing friend Crista has written about Webster’s eloquently on her blog, both about learning it was closing, and about her more recent thoughts on recent developments. (There’s also some links to news sources at the bottom of the second post). I’m truly hoping Webster’s can find a new location, and there certainly seems to be a lot of energy in keeping it going. I’ll try to write more about this later, when I have a bit more energy, but I wanted to get a few thoughts down now.

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3 Responses to politics and rhetoric of spaces

  1. Nels says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Back in my college days in Houston, clubs would have their gay night on Thursdays if it was 18-and-up or Sundays if it was 21-and-up. And this was a world with about ten other gay and lesbian bars. But those were the two nights when there was the most competition and the some animosity about it, especially because the Thursday nights were crawling with older men who wanted the teens (and I say that as a teen who wanted to be wanted by the middle-aged set before I was old enough for the bear bars, not to promote that horrid “troll” metaphor), so then there got to be this crap about having an upper-age limit, which is quite illegal, I think. I wonder if each town has the gay nights on Thursdays and/or Sundays when it’s no all-queer 24/7?

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks, Nel, it’s both discomforting and comforting to hear that this sort of thing happened in Houston too. My concern, as I think about it right now, is how easily LGBTQ folk think of themselves as a consuming demographic rather than a public (in the rich, Michael Warner sense of the term). What would be different if questions were about new sorts of relations, rather than supporting certain businesses over others (thus, creating a tautology, they support us because we support them, and circular so forth).

  3. Nels says:

    Yep. I remember conference paper at the Grad Student LGBT Conference in Austin in 1996 where someone was talking about this point and the sale of shampoo that had pink triangles on it aimed at us. Seriously, taking a symbol from the concentration camps and using it to get people to by hair products? Obviously, the product didn’t last, but the concept did.

    I’m a vodka guy, and I admit I got tired of seeing Absolut ads everywhere I went in the 1990s on. The support was nice on one level, but then it started feeling pushy.

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