Ruby Rose is hot. Straight girls everywhere have taken to the internet to let this be known. Since her appearance on season three of Orange Is the New Black, the Australian model, DJ, and actress is all over the internet. Rose's overnight transformation into every straight girl's wet dream has left a lot of lesbians shaking their heads with amusement, annoyance, or, in some cases, downright anger. There are a lot of attractive actresses, both gay, and straight: what is it about Ruby Rose that has so captivated the young heterosexual female?
As both a woman who likes women, and as a long-time Ruby Rose fan girl, I have a few thoughts on the matter. I'd like to start by sharing a story about myself. When I was a college sophomore, and, as my friends and I like to refer to this time in our lives, "a budding queer," I tweeted "hi" at Ruby Rose. She tweeted "hi" back. I lay prostrate on the floor of my room for the next several hours, unsure of how to proceed with my life. Why was I so entranced by Ruby? Well, she was gay. And she was beautiful. I, who had spent a great deal of my life assuming that girls who looked as beautiful as Ruby Rose would never be interested in women let alone interested in someone like me, was fortified simply by the knowledge of her existence. I assume, for many straight girls, seeing Ruby Rose on OITNB for the first time gives them a feeling superficially similar to mine: a girl who looks like THAT is a LESBIAN?! It's revelatory. It gives them confidence -- not that they can come out as gay, though if that is the case, good for them, but it probably started way before Ruby Rose graced their television screens -- that it is "safe" to be attracted to a woman while still maintaining a firm heterosexuality. There are a lot of problems with this.
Why are straight girls so comfortable with proclaiming their appreciation for Rose's beauty, rather than, say, Samira Wiley's or Lea DeLaria's? Both Wiley and DeLaria play gay characters on OITNB; both are gay in real life. Why do they not merit the same levels of devotion, of willingness to reconsider one's sexual preference? They've been on the show a lot longer than Ruby Rose. What is it about Ruby? I would argue that Ruby Rose, while short-haired, tattooed, and androgynous, maintains a level of societally acceptable feminine beauty, a kind of beauty that, I, at least, internalized as the standard for being beautiful and for being a woman. This is not in any way an attack on Ruby Rose: it is merely an observation about our own insecurities when it comes to "beautiful" women. Straight girls are comfortable with Ruby Rose in a way that apparently isn't possible with DeLaria or Wiley. Is it because Rose, though a lesbian -- which might initially frighten these straight girls off -- is still skinny, white and, to a degree, feminine-presenting, while DeLaria and Wiley are not? I think that certainly has something to do with it. Straight girls are comfortable being attracted to Ruby Rose because she doesn't pose a real threat to their heterosexuality, or their need to readdress their conceptions of beauty and sexuality. She allows them to embrace their newfound "lesbianism," while staying within their comfort zone.
When I think of these the phenomenon of the straight girl gone gay for Ruby Rose, I think of myself as a college sophomore laying on the floor of my room, completely overwhelmed by Ruby's response to my tweet. There was a safety in being super turned on by Ruby Rose but maintaining a distance from other lesbian figures who didn't look beautiful in the way I had been taught to understand beauty. There was a safety in that superficiality, in proclaiming "I'm gay!" without having to face what that really meant, how it would change my life, my definitions of sex and marriage and partnership, and gender and so on. There was and still is a safety in that thinly veiled homophobia, which enables one to be "totally gay" for Ruby Rose, but maintain a permanent and definite distance from other gay people or gay issues which are less conventionally attractive, which you cannot fully embrace and understand while remaining "totally straight."
I like to think that I've come a long way since my budding queer college days, and I still have a ways to go. But I hope that all of these straight girls who have suddenly awoken and found lesbianism can push themselves to look not just at Ruby Rose's beauty, but beyond it (Ruby Rose does a lot of cool shit for the queer community: have you seen this?) and consider if they're really "gay" for Ruby, or merely happy to be able to use the word "gay" while still keeping a distance from it.