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By “Relationships with Women,” She Meant Friendships, Insists Cate Blanchett

Gage Skidmore - CC

Kirsten Andersen - published on 05/18/15

Does everything have to be eroticized?

Last week, Variety kicked off a firestorm of excitement among homosexual activists with a report claiming that Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett had outed herself as bisexual during an interview.  Now, the married mother of four is throwing water on the flames, saying the reporter selectively edited her words to make it sound like she was confessing to past lesbian love affairs, when in fact she had gone out of her way to tell him she had never had sex with another woman.

The high-profile disagreement has prompted questions about the meaning of the word "relationship," and whether sex should be fundamentally included.

Blanchett, 46, spoke to Variety as part of a promotional press tour for her new film, Carol, a lesbian love story set in the 1950s. While discussing her preparation for the role, film editor Ramin Setoodeh reportedly asked her if the role was her first as a lesbian.

Wrote Setoodeh: “When asked if this is her first turn as a lesbian, Blanchett curls her lips into a smile. ‘On film — or in real life?’ she asks coyly. Pressed for details about whether she’s had past relationships with women, she responds: ‘Yes. Many times,’ but doesn’t elaborate.”

But at a press conference in Cannes this week, Blanchett said she remembers the interview differently.

“From memory, the conversation ran: ‘Have you had relationships with women?’” Blanchett recalled.  “And I said: ‘Yes, many times. Do you mean have I had sexual relationships with women? Then the answer is no.’ But that obviously didn’t make it.”

Without having been present for the interview, it’s impossible to say whether Setoodeh’s interpretation of Blanchett’s statements as “coy” is accurate, and given the fact that she’s marketing a movie about a lesbian love affair, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Blanchett was cynically trying to garner attention for the film by “hinting at a Sapphic past,” as British writer Daisy Buchanan put it in a piece for the UK Telegraph. So far, Setoodeh is sticking by his story. Blanchett’s publicist didn’t immediately respond to a request by Aleteia for further comment.

But regardless of Blanchett’s intentions, if Setoodeh did indeed intentionally withhold her clear statement that she has never been intimate with a woman, there has to be a reason. And the most obvious is that sex sells – especially when it’s the forbidden kind. 

But does painting close same-sex relationships (or even opposit- sex relationships) with an erotic brush do a disservice to the power and importance of friendship itself?  Buchanan, the British writer, explored that idea in her piece, titled, “Cate Blanchett is right. Female friendships can be more potent than any love affair.” 

Buchanan argued that women’s emotional intensity means their close friendships often take on many of the attributes of a love affair. Unfortunately, Buchanan focused largely on the downsides of such close relationships – jealousy, envy, anxiety, obsession. She recalled ended friendships that left her with deeper scars than any romantic breakup, and wrote, “just because we might not choose not to sleep together doesn’t mean that we can’t hurt each other.”

Somehow, in Buchanan’s mind, this capacity to wound deeply is the best evidence of the power of love, friendship, and even women themselves. “Blanchett is right to refer to her [friendships] as ‘relationships,’” Buchanan wrote. “When we start to understand the significance of the relationships between women, we can begin to respect the power women truly hold.”

But what about the kinder side of love? Healthy people aren’t inspired to devotion by jealousy, envy, anxiety and need.  One of the best definitions of true love comes from the Bible, which says in 1 Corinthians 13:  “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

It’s important to note that there’s nothing in that passage that refers to sexual relationships. Meanwhile, the jealous intensity Buchanan describes in her piece is held up as the ultimate “what not to do” when it comes to love. 

History, literature and even pop culture are replete with great love stories between friends. Jesus and the Beloved Disciple. King David and Jonathan. St. Francis and St. Clare. Kirk and Spock. Our culture has even coined the term “bromance” for the male-exclusive version of these deep platonic bonds. Meanwhile, similarly close friendships between women, or especially men and women, are viewed with suspicion and a suggestive wink and a nod. Often, denials only fan the flames of speculation.  And a think piece like Buchanan’s, with its disturbing focus on drama and possessiveness, don’t help matters.

People talk about the “friend zone” like it’s the worst place in the world to be. That’s a shame.  

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