“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It)” Blog

On Everyday Feminism website, Laverne Cox speaks out on the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny. Within the supplied segment of her speech, several stories are mentioned which provide an insight to the everyday struggles a transgender individual might go through. These obstacles include constant catcalling whilst out in public, acts of homophobia and racialization, as well as judgement of one’s gender. Cox specifically draws on a personal experience of street catcalling, which she goes into detail about. The details she supplies, which include the catcallers questioning her on whether she is a “B” or an “N”, prove to be very disturbing and unreasonable to ask of someone.

While listening to Cox’s catcalling story, I could not help but feel slightly angry. I did not enjoy listening to how random individuals on the street who did not know her felt the need to categorize her by her race and gender. One should never have to identify themselves if they do not choose to. As well, I do not think it is necessary to have to explain oneself to anyone regarding anything, whether that be ones sexuality and gender or ones race and sexual orientation. Moreover, the story gets quite shocking and disturbing when Cox mentions that trans women of colour are the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTQ community. She further states that homicide rates over the past year have jumped from 43% to 54%, with most occurrences involving women of colour. Cox’s reasoning behind why transgender people of colour are more attacked is very convincing and proven to be true within to her evidence. Her statements concerning transgender cruelty being bound to occur more with trans women of colour are easily understandable. Several studies, including Cultural Studies and Diaspora Studies surround her thesis of why people of colour are heavily criticized, disagreed with and hurt, either mentally or physically have been examined. Although I cannot be sure as to what Laverne Cox did not say, as this is only an excerpt of a larger speech, I can only hope that she also touched on the stories behind similar occurrences of homicides within transgender people of other colours and races as well.

Touching back on Cox’s experience with catcalling, it angers me to listen to Cox’s reasoning as to why these men thought it was appropriate to single her out as something specific. It is difficult to wrap my head around why these men thought their actions were appropriate. I can only assume that the men were convinced to observe and survey Cox’s body and then further categorize her because of today’s outlook on, and construction of, masculinity. Cox states that systemic changes in society, such as gender inequality, and race inequality have caused a ripple effect and in doing so, have basically pushed transgender people of colour individuals to the bottom of the food chain.   Clearly this is not acceptable or justified, but rather is seen, by myself, as a poor coping mechanism. Although this is just my inference based off of Cox’s speech, I think it has space for growth, as there are countless cases, such as Tiffany Edwards, a 28-year-old transgender woman of colour who had been shot to death in Walnut Hills, Ohio that support Cox’s thesis as well as my inference.

The ever-prominent struggle of acknowledging and accepting people’s differences is becoming harder and harder because of the impact that being “different” has on society. An example of this can be seen within the media, as it has a large impact on today’s society with it’s easy accessibility. I think it is inspiring and motivational that Cox can speak out about the power in being different to groups of people in the hopes of a better tomorrow. Her comments on love as a solution are deep and universal, but conditional because of how human beings value and understand race, gender and sexuality, just to name a few. If Cox can get her ideals across to more people and spread her message, perhaps things in society can change. The supplied segment of Laverne Cox’s speech is convincing and well thought through. By supplying stories, statistics and personal experiences, she easily captivates the viewer and gives an interesting insight into her life, which may be very similar yet different to other individuals. None the less, I believe her speech is easily relatable considering everyone is bound to undergo catcalling, bullying or racism, although these occurrences may not be to the same extent as mentioned in her speech, they have still happened, still hurt and still need to be discussed. I think this is important to think about the similarities in these situations when looking at Cox’s speech. I find it easier to understand as if one can notice that the same experiences are happening with people of their same race and realize that it is not okay, then they should also realize that it is as equally not okay for people of different races, genders or sexualities.

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On Susan Sontag

On Photography’

Film, while being many things, can be thought of as a continuous or moving flow of stills or photographs. The late Susan Sontag had an intimate relationship with photographs, even going so far as to say, “(t)o photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves. . .” (Susan Sontag Goodreads.com). The documentary, Regarding Susan Sontag (2014) is a glimpse into the literary celebrity, cultural critic and feminist icon that was Susan Sontag. Beginning with Sontag’s childhood with absentee parents and her marriage at a young age, the film spans over Sontag’s lifetime. Directed by Nancy Kates this documentary highlights Sontag’s numerous affairs with famous artists of the time, her on-ground investigations into many wars, her investigation of homosexual society and its influence on post-WWII America and her fight with cancer leading to her death at age 70. The commentary by interviewees, archival footage of Sontag and photographs from Sontag’s life, all come together to portray Sontag’s life as well as the central theme of the ability of humans to continuously evolve.

 

The Genius Schmuck

I highly appreciated the film for many reasons, including the documentary style and sound effects. Two methods of the director’s that really brought Sontag to life as well as bringing about the theme of character evolution was Kate’s use of interviews/archival footage and editing/transitional devices. The film alternates through current interviews of friends and family and archival footage of Sontag herself. Most notable in this technique is Kate’s use of a variety of people from different backgrounds and experiences, from Sontag’s contemporaries to her past lovers. This works well for this film because it truly gives a varied view of a women who herself was so multidimensional. For example, Sontag’s personal experiences of racialization and anti-Semitism are told from the points of view of different interviewees. Sontag’s sister discusses Sontag’s joy when her mother remarries as she is able to renounce her Jewish last name (Rosenblatt) in post-war America and its anti-Semitic climate, while Sontag’s past-lover discusses how Sontag yearned to learn all she could about her Jewish heritage later in her life. Thus Sontag’s evolution in her relationship with her race/ethnicity is shown through the indirect interview cinematic method. Another method in the film that particularly moved me was the transitional devices which portrayed excellent symbolism of time, illness and the footprint that each human leaves in their lifetime. Photographs played such a powerful role in Sontag’s life and in her critique of American society, which is why it is no surprise that photographs were used by Kates as a primary transitional device. For example, stills of an hourglass is used as a transitional device as we go through Sontag’s life and arrive at her death, symbolizing her battle with illness and time as she strove to stay contemporary, continuously learn and leave her mark as a writer on society. These cinematic devices really symbolizes Sontag’s evolution as a writer, lover and more throughout her lifetime.

Who was Susan Sontag?

In addition to the cinematic techniques that brought Sontag to life for the viewer, the scene where Sontag denies being a feminist and where the interviewees discuss Sontag never “coming out” really captures Sontag’s character. This scene where Sontag doesn’t affirm to being a feminist when questioned in an archival interview followed be Don Levine stating, “She was very resistant to categories.” really grabbed my attention (Regarding Susan Sontag). This scene was so important in the film because it really brought to light Sontag’s nature of refusing to ascribe one facet of her identity as what defined her. It showed me that Sontag didn’t want to be restricted by binaries or labels and that to her sexuality was indeed fluid. As one interviewee Sigrid Nunez put it, “She had relationships men and she fell in love with women and she fell in love with men. . .” (Regarding Susan Sontag). In my interpretation, to Sontag there was simply no need to act out the drama of “coming out” to the American public as her relationships and sexuality was not for public consumption. I found this quite important because it did make me contemplate the importance, or lack thereof, of acting out your sexuality to the public. Personal relationships and sexuality should not be for public consumption regardless of who you are. In terms of Sontag’s hesitance to call herself a feminist (archival interview was during second-wave feminism era) she nevertheless remains an icon to many feminists around the world because of her knack for staying true to herself and breaking gender boundaries by accepting all of herself and not allowing labels to keep her from male-dominated spaces in 1960s-70s America. All in all, despite controversies around Sontag publicly announcing herself as a feminist or bisexual, Sontag is a feminist role model as well as a role model in displaying one’s sexuality on one’s own terms.

12PM SUN FEB 1 – The Screening Room

My experience at Reelout was wonderful! I really do wish I had gotten the chance to see more of what the festival had to offer. The short film prior to my film (done by a Queen’s student) was quite well done and an unexpected treat before I saw the movie. This assignment as it were, really helped me get out of the Queen’s “bubble” that first-years often find themselves stuck in. I can say that I thoroughly look forward to attending Reelout next year and having a chance to see films I may not otherwise have watched.

posted by: A54A G.

Girlhood

While I leaf through the Reelout program in the dark, I hear the familiar notes of “Nouveaux Horizons” by French artist Melissa NKonda in the speakers. The upbeat tune seems misleading as I find the film’s title in the program, marked by a teardrop icon, indicating “drama”.

“Girlhood” is a French film, directed and written by Céline Sciamma, known for previous movies, such as Tomboy and Water Lilies, in which she explores the boundaries of gender and sexuality. She does this also in this film about a young African-French girl named Marieme, living in the projects of suburban Paris with her working, absent mother, two younger sisters and an older brother, the only man of the house whose presence is felt even when he is not in it. Marieme fails to meet the academic expectations of her school and is told that she will not be moving on to high school, leaving her with the only option of going to vocational school, a path to a blue collar job. As she exits the school, Marieme encounters a group of leather-and-denim-clad girls that set her on a different path.

The film opens with two football teams running out onto a field. At first I think that I am watching the wrong movie. Soon enough it becomes evident that two female teams are playing the rough game. They end the game by gathering together and cheering, regardless of team. The light over the field is soon shut off, and the girls go home. This introduction sets the stage and introduces the power structures that will be present for the rest of the movie. The girls walk home in the dark, chattering, and fall silent as a group of neighborhood boys is encountered. One by one the girls go their separate ways and soon Marieme walks alone.

Marieme befriends the set of girls outside of school – Lady, Fily and Adiatou – and is introduced to a world of violence, but also the confidence and freedom that she lacks. It is Lady that instills this attitude in her, having her repeat the phrase “I do what I want”, and presenting her with a new name, a golden necklace reading “Vic” – for Victory.

In one scene, after her first meeting with the girls, we see Marieme tell her mother she is going to high school. Immediately after, she pockets a folding knife and straightens up. Marieme is now committed to her newfound life of freedom. We see the girls encounter other gangs of girls, taking them on in verbal as well as physical confrontations. Simultaneously, their freedom is undermined by the local boy gangs, which govern their interactions.

Marieme’s brother, Djibril, is strong, dominating – the personification of hegemonic masculinity, abiding by the socially constructed gender roles. His role consists of controlling Marieme and her sisters. The gap between the two is significant, only closed once he learns that Marieme has won a fight against a girl in a different gang, allowing us the only scene in which they bond, seemingly as equals, through violence and domination.

The film also flips the sexual script by giving Marieme control in interactions with the opposite sex, as she becomes intimate with Ismael, her brother’s friend. Djibril then punishes her and she earns a reputation as a slut.Marieme accepts a job selling drugs from the local drug dealer, Abou, and leaves home. At this stage of her life, the theme of transgender is touched upon: we see Marieme with short, braided hair and baggy, boyish clothing. We later learn that she binds her breasts as well. The gender spectrum is explored as she embraces her new, masculine persona, which is done for self-protection as well as self-empowerment. Simultaneously, she wears a short, red dress, high heels and a white wig when delivering drugs at exclusive parties, which is where we see her enter into the world of white people. In a movie that focuses on a black neighbourhood, this is one of the few times races are intermixed as we see white people introduced to Marieme’s world and she is merely a provider. Later, when slow-dancing at a party with her female roommate – also Abou’s employee, one of his “girls” – there is an implied intimacy between them while a blue light flashes across Marieme’s face. They are then interrupted by Abou, who forces Marieme to kiss him in order to reassess his role as the boss, the patriarch.

One scene that stands out is when Marieme stands on a corner with her male friends. A girl passes by, earning a comment from one of Marieme’s friends. As he holds the girl by the arm, he tells her to thank him for the compliment he is giving her, insisting that he is being nice as he grabs her harder. Marieme joins in, telling the girl she should thank him. This is a stark contrast to the Marieme that walked home alone in the dark, and not long after this scene she is being forced by Abou to kiss him, dragging her back into the gender role she thought she had abandoned. Although Marieme’s life is not luxurious, it is important to her that it is a life she has chosen. When later offered the option of marriage by Ismael, an action which will save her reputation, Marieme once again chooses not to conform to a domestic life and walks away, thereby rejecting the only life choice that she is given as a girl. The masculine identity becomes her path to autonomy, exercising the little amount of control that is given to her regarding her life. The movie has an open ending and we do not know what the next stage of life brings, but it is safe to say that it is a place of empowerment and personal responsibility, whatever the outcome.

Review by curly-z.

‘The Circle’ Movie Review

The Circle, a film by Stefan Haupt, is based on the true story of the love of two vastly different men as they contest for their love, and with the help of friends contest for homosexual rights. The film takes place in Zürich Switzerland in the 1950’s. Throughout this era in Switzerland, homosexuality was certainly not a crime, but there was not a high tolerance for the homosexual population. Many displayed actions that are considered as homophobic. The short film goes behind the scenes into a scandal that kept the audience at the edge of their seats, as it accurately recreated the atmosphere of the era in which the Swiss exposed their intolerant ways. The first main character of discussion is Ernst; Ernst is a young introverted teacher who decides to join the homosexual organization known as The Circle, a banned magazine that serves the purpose of uniting the gay community in Switzerland after World War II. His involvement in the group brings an unexpected turn; here is where he meets Röbi, a cross gender singer and performer by night and a hairdresser by day. Immediately, Röbi and Ernst fall in love. A conflict that the film presents is the self-confliction of their imminent love that both Röbi and Ernst face. Ernst finds himself stuck in the middle between his ‘conventional’ life style and the acceptance of his own homosexuality. For Röbi, the idea of his first committed relationship is a daunting and scary thought. In the end, the two decide to commit and fight for their love, a love which proves to last an entire lifetime. In fact, the real Ernst and Röbi were the first legally married homosexual couple in Switzerland, at the age of 73. These conflicts that the men face are ones that may be relatable to homosexuals in our society when they make the choice to commit to their first serious relationship. In this sense, the film is an excellent representation of fighting against the grain of our society, which sometimes displays cases of heterosexism. Gender and Race both play small but important roles in the film. Röbi’s job by night as a drag performer introduces and familiarizes the audience with the idea of being transgender; even though this act that he puts on for his performances isn’t carried out through Röbi’s everyday life and character. Gender expression is also  brought to life by Röbi’s role in the film through is extravagant performances at the famous gala’s which are hosted by the organization. Race plays a role in the film which isn’t as direct; it is a theme which is hidden between the lines. It is incorporated in the film as the Swiss police persecute the gays. It may be said that another theme of the film was to show the audience that the Swiss people and the Swiss Law continued their ways of persecuting those whose lifestyles didn’t ‘fit’ the mould of Swiss society due to socialization, even after such a tragedy as the reign of the Nazis. The Circle in many scenes plays out like an action or thriller movie. Characters in the movie fear from the police as they try and infiltrate the list of people who are subscribing to the magazine that The Circle is publishing. Aside from the thrilling and dramatic side of the movie, one of the most attention grabbing scenes is the ball which the organization hosts. The scene was brought to life with endless chatter, performances, and live art from the organization. These balls were the only known homosexual events held in the entire world at the time. The room is filled with joy and with laughter as people are dancing, singing, and paying appreciation to the organization. This scene is where Röbi is first seen singing for the crowd, and Ernst is in awe by his talent and instantly drawn to him; it is love at first sight. The importance of this scene is that is clearly represents the instant feeling of love that both characters feel for each other, in an environment of such acceptance and welcome. At first, Ernst believes that Röbi really is a woman. His response when he finds out that Röbi really is a man is “You’re kidding!”. This scene was a memorable one, the feeling of happiness and love was so contagious and one could not help but smile at Ernst’s reaction to Röbi. The ambiance in the room added to the feeling of the scene, the light was dim and really set the mood of what was happening in the scene.

My experience of attending the festival was a great one, one that I would recommend to all students, not just the ones enrolled in the course. The Screening Room is a great setting for such an intimate yet thrilling movie. The size is smaller than a normal theatre, which added to the intimacy of the film. Everyone in the theatre seemed to be drawn in and really engaged in the film. The reason I found the film to be so interesting and captivating was the different moods in the film. Scenes ranged from calm and controlled scenes of Ernst and Röbi expressing their love, to harsh and loud scenes with investigations and police. This gave the film many different dimensions, which made it very interesting and captivating for the audience.

Posted by: yazzalexx

“Boy Meets Girl” Movie Review

“Boy Meets Girl” directed by Eric Schaeffer is a comedy about the life of Ricky, a transgendered 20 year old, and her impact on the people around her. After countless struggles trying to find the “right” male, Ricky resorts to females where she befriends Francesca, a girl from the neighborhood. This friendship leads to more and the jealousy of Ricky’s best friend Robby to be revealed, as he must now face his feelings. “Boy Meets Girl” captures the intensity of a relationship and the stress that comes with it while trying to balance the struggles of life. Whilst expressing the battle with love, Ricky’s story causes one to look back on their past, as she discusses bullying at a young age and the feeling of guilt. The detail in her childhood adds strength to the film as it encourages viewers to realize that although times may be tough, everything eventually sorts itself out. Although race is not a key concept in the film, one’s gender and sexual orientation is. There are several examples showing this.  At first Robby illustrates a sense of interest in lesbian/bisexual chic when he tells Ricky that it is “hot” to see two females kissing.  Moreover, there is a flashback scene in which some characters express homophobia in Robby’s car, and lastly when Francesca’s mother confronts Ricky of her feelings for her daughter and claims heterosexim. Which are all overlooked while the film constantly reminds the viewer of Francesca’s fiancé’s negative feelings towards someone who is transgendered. More than this, “Boy Meets Girl” shows that even if you may not love yourself, someone will always love you. Ricky and Francesca’s fling expresses what everyone is capable of, and is a pure example of the will of blindness for love. Although their relationship never resulted in anything further than a one-night stand, their affection for one another is reformed into a friendship filled with support as Robby begins to take the boyfriend role in Ricky’s life. “Boy Meets Girl” illustrates several problems with sexual interactions in today’s society. For example, by presenting the “cult of the virgin” idea; when Francesca and Ricky begin to get to know one another, they both mention they are virgins, which is not the case. Within the film, one scene engraved itself into my mind. Towards the end of the picture, Ricky is seen swimming in the river nude, as Robby expresses his feelings for her from land. In this scene, Ricky emerges from the water and a full shot of her naked body takes the screen. Ricky asks, “Am I still beautiful?” while standing in front of her best friend and lover. Robby does not hesitate to reply, stating she is still the most beautiful girl he has ever met. This scene further shows the underlying message of Boy Meets Girl. Ricky loves herself and all that she has become, but does not feel accepted until she realizes that someone else loves her for being her. At first, this scene shocked me as I really did not know what to expect but after a quick 30 seconds, I found myself crying to the romance that was being expressed on the screen before me. This scene wrapped the entirety of the movie together and left the viewer with a message to remember for years to come. Love is important and it’s always there even if it is not visible at first. Overall, Eric Schaeffer’s “Boy Meets Girl” captures the heat, romance, and attraction in trying to find oneself.

Unfortunately, the film was not fully executed to it’s full potential as the theatre had sold more tickets than there were seats for. I scrambled into The Screening Room on time and could not find a seat. Upon informing one of the employers, I was given a metal chair and placed it in the only area empty enough, near the emergency escape door. Although that was a better solution than sitting on the floor, I was also very distracted throughout the picture by an individual in front of me sitting next to the isle who constantly checked her phone, replied to messages and checked almost every social media app one could download. Although there was another distraction during the picture, it added to the environment in a very positive way. Up at the front of the audience, a man in his 20’s or so continued to add comments to the actions of the actors. If someone said something degrading to LGBTQ individuals, he would snap his fingers and call them out on it. I was constantly laughing due to the comedy of the film and this mans side comments for most of the movie. Throughout these obstacles and distractions, the environment was really nice for such an intimate film. It felt as if I knew everyone in the room after watching the picture because you could feel the emotions of everyone sitting around you. Some were crying, some giggling and some starred at the screen with a look of wanting a love like Ricky and Robby in their eyes.

Posted by: nkabs