Society and Culture

Lesbian Humor is Amazing

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I say at least once a week that I want something on a t-shirt. Some quote or another that just rolls out of my mouth, out of a friend’s mouth, or out of the mouth of a Shonda Rhimes character. Some are life philosophies and would actually fit on a t-shirt (Shut Up. Dance It Out.) and some are way too long to put on a t-shirt unless it’s quite creatively done (“They share food, and they say things, and they move, and they breathe. Ugh. They’re like, happy.” “Kick them out.”).

I always want to emblazon these little puppies a tee or tank to (a) make myself squee and (b) irritate and confuse the cishets when I cruise down the street. I want an entire line of these snarky wonders for the gym: sample, “Lesbians love to eat their own.”

I never actually make any of these t-shirts or tank tops.

But this week, Autostraddle did.

From crop tops to crew shirts, the online lesbian media hub has created a line of “Gal Pal” wear, just in time for summer’s last hoorah. And the cishets won’t know it–y’all might think, “oh, isn’t that cute, girls make such great friends to each other, adorable”–we actually mean it to spite you.

Because Autostraddle released–during their Gal Pal Week–a celebratory list of women characters having genuine friendships with other women characters in the media. And the kicker–a lot of these women are queer.

And this is important, because “gal pals” is typically a phrase used by mainstream or cishet (which, in case you don’t know, equals cisgender + heterosexual) media to erase queer women’s identities, desires, and relationships. Our romantic relationships on television are so often dismissed, denied, and washed away (is straightwashing a word?). When two women characters have phenomenal sexual and personal chemistry, they are so often dismissed as “gal pals,” not people who could be/are lovers (or would for sure be lovers if one were written as a man).

As is often necessary, I go to tumblr to provide further explanation:

So when Autostraddle wants to sell me a “gal pals” shirt, I want to buy it. Because yes, we do have gal pals (Meredith and Cristina, anyone?), and we should celebrate each other.

But we also have lovers and desires and chemistries that are erased by mainstream media under the label of “gal pals.”

So when the cishets might think my shirt (which, if my track record proves anything, I won’t actually buy) is cute, I’ll be snickering in my mind (like the wonderful tumblr user above)–“hehe, gal pals. It’s cute how you think you know what you’re talking about.”

Jennifer Polish
Jennifer Polish is an English PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC, where she studies non/human animals and the racialization of dis/ability in young adult literature. When she’s not yelling at the computer because Netflix is loading too slowly, she is editing her novel, doing activist-y things, running, or giving the computer a break and yelling at books instead. Contact Jennifer at



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