Smokin' HoAre all your best queers posting Instagram photos of themselves with a sly cigarette poking out of their mouths? … How cool can kill.

Are you familiar with the phrase ‘Smokin’ hot’? Who isn’t?! I know I gave it a fair bit of circulation in 2015. Lately, when I scroll through my Instagram feed, I can’t help but think that too many of us are taking this phrase literally. Every 3rd selfie in my queerly-curated feed features someone posing with a cigarette, their chins slightly tilted up and the featured accessory (cigarette) nonchalantly perched half off their lips. You all know the pose I’m talking about; it’s gotten bigger than the fuckboy poses. In contemporary Andro-Tomboy culture, the difference between a hot and a ‘smoking hot’ selfie is just a fag. Literally.

Last time I checked, I thought we all agreed smoking was super ’90s! Medical research and public policy on tobacco in past decades has transformed smoking from icy cool Marlborough man vibes, to a dirty habit shun out of businesses, patios and parks. Slick marketing campaigns suggesting that smoking is sexy have been nixed by marketing bans and replaced with redecorated cigarette packs covered in blackened lungs and gum disease gone wild. In light of all the governmental shaming, I genuinely thought smoking was something only older, already-addicted dogs you couldn’t teach a new trick to kept up with; not something my pink lunged andro queers would revival glamourise.

So why, in 2015, with everything we now know about smoking, is lesbian culture in the midst of a full on ‘James Dean smoking is sexy’ revival?

Tobacco marketing of yesteryear was some very powerful stuff. I imagine one day anthropologists will study it and scratch their heads wondering how companies sold actual poison as being something glamorous and lusty. The 1950s were a mans world. American tobacco giants like Phillip Morris spent truckloads of money selling society the message smoking was sexy, grown up, masculine, heck, even rugged. The American public bought it hook line and sinker, and Hollywood, with the help of James Dean, propagated it to every corner of the globe. Smoking became a symbol of virility.

The women’s movement brought about the possibility for an expanded market and more dallahs for the tobacco game. Smoking suddenly started being marketed as a the torch of liberty for women: a symbol of independence. A woman could be just as independent as any man if she smoked the right brand.

It becomes increasingly obvious why a group of marginalised women living in an andro glam James Dean aesthetic are suddenly appearing with cigarettes in their mouths. Young millennial lesbians are:

Firstly, young. 

Smoking has always been viewed as a rite of passage. Want to look more grown up and independent? Society says, smoke. It’s also an act of youth revolt and total badassery. No ones parents want them to smoke. Schools and public health agencies discourage smoking, so naturally, teens… You guessed it, smoke. I know I did. It’s the ultimate FU to parents and society.

Secondly, lesbians are a group of women.

Like it or lump it, women are still the second sex and looking for their foothold in society. As a group, culturally, we are striving for equality. To achieve this, social understanding has it that we act like men by taking on their ‘masculine’ qualities. It tells us: Be leaders, virile, independent, macho.

Third, identity politics.

Butch edge/appearance is synonymous in lesbian subculture with being a more authentic lesbian identity. The more masculine a lesbian is, the more ‘authentically queer’ she is regarded as being. This is an ongoing debate in the lesbian community, and the frustration of every femme. Things being as they are however, young/new lesbians who want to be identifiable in the community and seen as more queer, tend to feel pressured to conform and assume more androgynous/tomboy/butch identities and looks.

Fourth, trend.

Popular lesbian culture is as interested in identity as it is aesthetic. Androgyny is ‘in,’ in every corner of fashion. Mainstream culture has even picked up on the queer pop culture fashion phenomenon that is ‘James Dean Chic’. James Dean Chic is a leather jacket over a classic tee, shades, jeans rugged with a destroyed wash, and some cons. Boots, even, for extra swagger. This whole look is pulled together only with an attitude that oozes nonchalance, sexiness and a splash of danger.

Finally, sex appeal.

Maybe our society is orally fixated. Maybe we’re suffering from some type of generational brainwashing caused by 1950s big tobacco ads. But one thing is certain, we subconsciously think smoking is sexy. Danger is sexy. When we watch someone do something taboo; purse their lips gently against something risky, maybe touch it with their tongue, we get aroused, and suddenly they are tempting and beddable.

How could one be successful in all of these points? Easy: hang one cigarette from your pouty, open mouth. That’s it. Then, suddenly you’re rebellious, equal, independent, trendy and sexy. A average selfie becomes transformed into a smoking hot one with so much meaning.

Sadly, these are very diluted social myths. Nothing is badass about freezing outside the club in -20 weather. Nothing is sexy about a dry, sticky tongue. There’s no equality in lung cancer; no getting ahead when one’s is taking so much time away from the hustle to satisfy cravings. And there’s certainly no mystique in a predictable habit.

Ladies, if you want to be independent, cool, brave: do something truly risky. Strive to absolutely kill it in an area or institution that is male-dominated. Be passionate about life and your ambitions. That’s badass! Be the best queer you can be by being yourself and loving women respectfully. Do things that make you feel confident: confidence is what’s truly sexy. And If you really, really want to impress me and give misogyny the real big FU, pose with your degrees! That, I, and every real woman out there would hashtag #ARealSmokeShow.

-Natash flushed her last 4 cigarettes down the toilet in April of 2010 and now celebrates her ‘smoke-iversary like a second birthday – with party hats and wine.–