Let me begin by making this very clear – my community deserves JoJo Siwa.
Let’s face it, we’ve got a dearth of decent lesbian role models in the mainstream and the last excellent one we had was Jodie Foster (requisite swooon). We’re terribly underrepresented in music and film and we’re long overdue a superstar. Bubblegum pop was never going to be the first platform for lesbians traditionally, but we live in upside down chaos times. Unexpected as she was, JoJo’s entrance as a spangly blonde supernova has been exactly what we needed. Hear me out…
Admittedly at first glance, she’s sweetness personified. Her brand has been polished meticulously since she was a promising child star (if anyone starts to notice parallels between her and Jodie, please raise your hand). JoJo has been curated to be a glitzy, show-stopping kid dancer since the age of about two by her Dance Moms mother, whom she adores because she’s pure and authentic. This could be seen to be part of the exploitative child star/slavery machine that we as Staunch Radical Feminists abhor – but this makes JoJo’s uncharacteristically low key coming out and gradual departure from the JoJo brand at 18 years old so much more edifying. She’s too gay for the machine and she’s deftly breaking programming.
Recently I introduced JoJo to my lesbian group, comprised mainly of older women who don’t have preadolescent girls to introduce them to fabulous new pop stars. She was greeted with a degree of skepticism because she dresses like a gingerbread person, and lots of lesbians are allergic to pop music. Fair enough. This is why I cannot wait for her to shed the Nickelodeon marionette schtick and go full glitter biker. It’s coming, you can already see it in her mad majorette aesthetic and hear it in her low, raspy Nebraska voice. She’s gonna be one of us, and she’s gonna make us proud, and revolutionise lesbian visibility with unmatched effervescent dyke energy. I promise.
You don’t need a particularly switched on lezdar to have noticed that under the bows and the sparkles, JoJo has had effortless butch swagger since her mid teens. She’s unabashedly all about her friends, how amazing girls are, and the value of self confidence and ambition. She’s an absolute gift to mothers of daughters and offers a perfect antidote to the distasteful adolescent sauce we’ve been smothered with in the past. I personally owe a debt of gratitude because I have a seven-year-old daughter in dire need of someone to emulate and admire that isn’t peddling songs about how happy they intend to make their imaginary future husband. Grim.
Right, this is turning into an ode to how great JoJo is – which she IS – so let me get to the worrying bit…
JoJo coming out as a lesbian was instantly and predictably queerified. She thanked her girlfriend in an awards speech and was immediately designated ‘pansexual’. Now, remember Jodie Foster’s coming out, also in an awards speech? I can. I proper cried about it. By the time Jodie did that she was untouchable and had a career’s worth of sterling reputation behind her. She can’t be queered. Remember when Ellen Page came out? No? Me neither. As a lesbian spokeswomen Page was always lacklustre, so she was perfect fodder for the trans juggernaut. Of course there’s much more to say about that but for now I’m offering her as a stark contrast to bolshy, self assured, iconic JoJo. They’re worlds apart in how they owned, or ultimately failed to own their homosexuality.
She’s gonna be one of us, and she’s gonna make us proud, and revolutionise lesbian visibility with unmatched effervescent dyke energy. I promise.
So, the press are skirting around the terrifying word ‘lesbian’, even though it couldn’t be clearer that not only is she definitely in our camp, she’s also in the first adorable flush of romance with her definitely female partner. It couldn’t be lesbianer if it tried. JoJo’s thrown herself headlong with trademark over the top flair into the gay scene. She held her first Pride party at her mad rainbow house and it was glorious. It made me pine for the days when everyone was just well happy about being a massive homo, not all that long ago. Have a look at her Pride performance – I’ll wait.
Obviously this has put her directly in the crosshairs of the wokenfold demiflexilunarwhatever gender stasi. In a big way. Hilariously, LGBT+ news outlets ran stories in which JoJo talked about Demi Lovato being a big part of her gay awakening. So far, so lesbian. But WAIT! Isn’t JoJo committing a heinous act of misgendering poor Demi by flagrantly implying that Demi, famously a ‘they’ now, is actually a woman? Confusing isn’t it? Who’s in charge of these new rules?
Or is it, as I have to cynically wonder, a sleight of hand to support the notion that because Demi is, of course, no longer a woman, then JoJo is as pansexual as the usual suspects claimed when she came out? “Don’t worry!” I imagine them to jubilantly declare, “lesbians still don’t exist because Demi is nOn BiNaRy!” Oy, the stupidity and nefariousness of it makes me cringe.
It remains to be seen if JoJo is headstrong enough to resist the tide of labels and stay unashamedly gay. The mission creep is easy to see, with her sexuality being mangled already, just as she’s starting out with her first same sex partner. It’s enraging, but I believe in JoJo (the urge to slat some motivational JoJo lyrics here is almost overwhelming). If she gets queered, or even worse, transed, I don’t know what I’ll do. It’d be devastating for all the baby dykes that have been lucky enough to find her and her music. Ellen Page was a sacrificial lamb who didn’t have it in her to resist, but JoJo is different. She’ll come out fighting for us and it will be magnificent.
Rebekah Wershbale is a lesbian radical feminist activist who occasionally makes insightful observations and attempts to make the relentless attack on women’s rights funny. It’s a work in progress.
Top photo: JoJo Siwa’s Twitter @itsjojosiwa
I hate to throw a wet blanket on a delightfully exuberant op-ed celebrating JoJo Siwa, but I've got to say it: Beware of celebrity worship! Nobody can disappoint you like people who are desperate to be in the public eye. Observe and admire Ms. Siwa, but don't break out with the cheers yet; give it time. It's going to take time until we know for sure if she belongs in the Martina Navratilova column or the Demi Levato column or, God forbid, the Eliot Page column.