Greedy for attention?

BCN 116 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 116, December 2012

For quite some time now,     Bristol has had a bi night called Greedy, run by members of local group BiVisible. Then the internet noticed…

Recently the members of Bivisible Bristol came across a tumblr blog post discussing our local club night, Greedy.

They had spotted a poster for the night on our venue’s website, The Queen Shilling, which is a gay club in Bristol town centre that we use because of their “no attitude” policy and convenient location, not to mention the fantastic support and friendliness of their staff. Somewhat unfortunately, we had dropped the ball and failed to make a poster for this particular event, so the Queen Shilling had made their own (below). Normally our posters are somewhat more interesting (below right)!

At any rate, a rather large tumblr debate was started. The original post was made by tumblr user: genderbenderagenda and they stated:

“I don’t identify as bisexual, but I think that especially if your identity is one of the letters in the LGBTQQIA then you should be an ally to the others.  Anyway, one of our local gay clubs is having a night for bisexual people soon, and it has been called “Greedy”. There is something about that which makes me kind of uncomfortable.”

They mentioned the negative stereotypes that bi people have to suffer but also suggested the possibility of this night ‘reclaiming’ the word. They then called out for any bisexual followers to comment.

Several people commented that they were bisexual (or pansexual) and that it didn’t offend them, but some saw how it could be offensive. At least two people felt “mixed” or “uncomfortable”, but glad that the night existed since they’d never seen a club night for bisexual people before. One said they wished there was something like that in their area. Many commentors said that, though they personally took it as a joke, they feared it would be taken as a confirmation of a stereotype by outsiders. One person said they would actively discourage people from going to a night like this because they felt it was biphobic.

Another commentor (holycheeseandcrackers) was by far the most persistent in their opinion, writing three separate posts on the topic. They felt that the word ‘greedy’ could not be reclaimed and used the example of a lesbian night called “Butch”, to which subsequent comment was made that “butch” was very much a reclaimed word  that was used for lesbian nights! They felt this did not hinder their argument, however. They went on to say that the stereotype was so pernicious that the bi community would not want to reclaim the word (to which one tumblr user simply reblogged the post with the added tag “I’ll reclaim greedy all I fucking want”.)

Other people making comments added some more info to the story: specifically that the night was run by and for bisexual people, rather than a gay venue’s misguided attempt to cash in on the “bi market” and had been running for some time. A Bristol-based blogger mentioned my name, spoke about Greedy when it was in the ideas stage and expressed surprise that people were having negative reactions.

This did not deter holycheeseandcrackers, however, saying that without quotation marks or some other way to show it was meant as a joke, reclaiming the word ‘greedy’ as “a blanket term for all bisexuals” was a negative thing. They did later admit to falling prey to bisexual stereotypes themselves by assuming that an LGBTQI* group was running the event, rather that an all-bisexual one. (They decided not to be too hard on themselves, however, because they had apparently not seen a bisexual-organised event in 22 years. Clearly not a reader of BCN then!) Indeed bisexualftw made some good arguments pointing out that the original poster may also have assumed it was a gay-organised event, thus contributing to bi invisibility, ending with: “we (!) tend to forget (!) that bi community exists.”

genderbenderagenda posted a summary of the responses acknowledging that since it was run by bisexual people, the name was meant to be tongue in cheek and was glad that others had recognised that. They wished us success with the night.

I find it curious and perhaps an exciting sign of the times that these blog users, in debating the efficacy of reclaiming a word like ‘greedy’, were completely unconscious of their use of the word “queer” – surely the ultimate example of a word being reclaimed. A word that people over a certain age remember as being one of the most hateful slurs to exist against people perceived to be homosexual. One that is so negative that many people still refuse to use it, believing as holycheeseandcrackers does about ‘greedy’, that it simply cannot be reclaimed.

Our response

On hearing about the blog post my co-organiser published the following on the Facebook group:

“Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I can confirm that the name is indeed tongue-in-cheek. At Bivisible we recognize that some people might find the name problematic, but we also enjoy having a sense of humor about ourselves, and the name Greedy is supposed to be in the spirit of feeling greedy for post-weekend fun (since it’s on a Tuesday night). There is no assumption being made here that bi people are greedy or slutty or whatever. Just as so many queer nights have words like fag or dyke in their names, we are simply trying to make something positive and fun out of a negative phrase. If anyone would like to discuss this further, why not come to our Bivisible meet-up at Cafe Kino this Thursday evening? X”

…to which I might only add that we were interested in fitting in with/riffing from the other gay nights around Bristol, which at the time were named Mutiny, Wonky and Liberty. Having heard of other bi nights that “reclaim” stereotypes (such as The Fence-Sitter’s Ball) the name Greedy became completely irresistible. All of this was decided in conversation with our current members, who for now have the burden of constituting the “bisexual community” of Bristol.

This issue has made me further realise a rule I always had in mind when advertising Greedy: I was  very careful not to put the word “bisexual” in our advertising. As any organiser of a bi group will know, bi people have difficulty with the word “bisexual” and getting bi people to come out of the woodwork is like pulling teeth. If you want bi people to come to a bi event, calling it “bi” is certain death. It also serves to exclude anyone who is not bi (except for unicorn hunters, and a room full of those is very much not what I wanted to end up with!) I wanted Greedy to seem like a friendly night, one that was safe for bi people but open to all. Many months later I realised I could potentially use the name to draw in the polyamorous crowd too.

When I first approached the venue with the idea for Greedy, the staff were keen for me to tell them if there was anything they should know about organising a bi night. Their motivation was to avoid bi fail, and this might be our first unwitting example. It goes to show just how delicate organising for the bi world can be. It also shows how powerful and divisive words are, and the importance of reclaiming them.

But, as they say, no publicity is bad publicity and hopefully if anyone who was part of the debate wants to see what the night is really like, they should come by and see if we’ve got a sense of humour or not. The bi world will never see more nights like this one until they support the ones that already exist.

The next Greedy will be on February 12th.