Tag Archives: gender

Event: Disturbing Bodies: Envy in the Medical Management of Intersex, Ellen Feder

Ellen Feder:

“Disturbing Bodies: Envy in the Medical Management of Intersex”


Tuesday, April 9, 2013 – 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Reading Room, 2nd Floor, Carriage House/LGBT Center 

3907 Spruce Street

Please join us for the following talk:

“Disturbing Bodies:  Envy in the Medical Management of Intersex”

Ellen K. Feder, Associate Professor of Philosophy, American University

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Abstract of the talk: In her talk, Professor Feder will discuss what she sees as the unexpected role of envy in the medical management of atypical sex anatomies.  She’ll begin by providing some background context with the work of psychologist and sexologist John Money whose research in the 1950s-60s provided the foundation of the first medical protocol for managing and treating intersex conditions in infants and young children, especially when the conditions produced “ambiguous” genitalia.  Professor Feder will then turn to a psychoanalytic analysis of envy as she proposes it operates in current management strategies of various intersex conditions.  Her approach is informed by feminist theory, philosophy, and bioethics, as well as by her work with activists, patients, parents, and doctors.

Ellen K. Feder works at the intersection of contemporary continental philosophy and feminist and critical race theory, particularly as these relate to matters of social policy. Her first book, Family Bonds: Genealogies of Race and Gender (Oxford, 2007) applies Foucault’s method to thinking about the intersecting “production” of race and gender, that is, how these categories are intelligible as categories, together with the way they come to make sense of us. Her second book, Making Sense of Intersex: Changing Ethical Perspectives in Biomedicine (forthcoming from Indiana University Press) extends the analysis to contemporary medical management of “intersex” bodies. Dr. Feder’s recent work has been published in theHastings Center ReportGLQ, and The Lancet. Dr. Feder has also participated in a task force charged with making recommendations about the current diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder for the forthcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The talk is open to Penn students, faculty, and staff but seating is limited so please RSVP here.


Event: Screening & Director’s Talk: Mosquito y Mari by Aurora Guerrero


Tuesday, April 9
Room A8, DRL (209 S. 33rd St), University of Pennyslvania

Penn for Imigrant Rights and Queer People of Color are teaming up for the first time to bring you Aurora Guerrero, Chicana female filmmaker and LGBT director and screenwriter. We will be screening her first film Mosquita y Mari and a Q&A after the film to discuss her work with LGBT and immigrant communities and upcoming projects.

This is a great follow-up to Mónica Enríquez-Enríquez’s screenings last week!

Unclean, Complicated, and Dirty: The Multiplicity of Femme

What is femme? It’s a seemingly obvious question, but it has to be asked. The common understanding of femme is the lesbian femme, a lesbian cis-gendered woman differentiated from non-queer cis-gendered women by her sexuality alone. The femme is a stereotype; this is the definition Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sherman find in the Oxford English Dictionary (Coyote and Sherman 25). However, under the slightest scrutiny, this easy definition does not hold up. What makes a lesbian femme’s femininity different from that of a heterosexual feminine woman? Is it possible for a man, gay or not, to be femme? How does femme align with transgender identities? These questions challenge easy categorization and reveal a difficult truth. Femme is difficult—if not impossible—to locate. Femme defies definition, threatening a migraine of multiplicity. In “A Fem(me)inist Manifesto,” Lisa Duggan and Shannon McHugh begin with an avowal of contradiction: “We cannot begin with a definition; we cannot offer assurances of any kind. For ‘fem(me)’ is not an identity, not a history, not a location on the map of desire. The fem(me) body is an anti(identity)body, a queer body in fem(me)inine drag. The voices we record do not cohere. So of course we contradict ourselves…” (165). These contradictions are at the forefront of Elizabeth Stark and Kami Chisholm’s 2006 documentary FtF: Female to Femme. Each interviewee shares her personal views on what it means to be femme, and the documentary never imposes a master narrative of femme. Femme is multiplicity, and that multiplicity is its power.

FtF: Female to Femme presents femme as a transgender category. The documentary appropriates trans language. This is apparent from the title alone, which plays on familiar abbreviations for familiar trans categories, the MtF and FtM. The support group and few of the interviews employ the language of “transitioning” from female to femme. In one interview, Elizabeth Stark characterizes FtFs as an integral part of the transgender revolution. In the support group scene, Leslie Mah tearfully discusses “the shame that I had for my body” as a child and the feeling that she had been “born into the wrong body.” If these expressions sound familiar, that is because they are common lines from the trans master narrative. Talking about femme through a transgender lens certainly seems counterintuitive at first glance. Traditionally, we think of trans as an oppositional identity. The root word means across, beyond, or through; traditionally, trans means across, beyond, or through the gender binary, from one side to the other. At first glance, femme does not cross that line. Female femininity is the expectation, not an obvious subversion; this is, of course, the root of the trouble with femme, invisibility and erasure. Framing femme as a transgender category is a risky move, one that opens up the possibility for widespread criticism. While discussing FtFs as a transgender category seems to catch a shared internal emotional struggle, it fails to represent the external struggle. While Meliza Bañales may have been the scorn of the Santa Cruz lesbian community for daring to wear lipstick, there is a dramatic difference in the sort of violence she experienced as a femme to the violence trans individuals experience. The very invisibility of femme works to protect femmes from that violence. Certainly not all femmes would consider their femme identity a trans identity, but the dissonance of these contradictions–of the multiplicity of categorizations—is half the point.

Femme is also performance and masquerade. The FtF opens with a montage of quotes and scenes that reference drag. There are women zipping up dresses and putting on makeup—the “behind the scenes” steps in the construction of femininity. This inherently performative act references more traditional filmic representations of drag, such as Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning, which is later explicitly referenced. Unsurprisingly, the documentary relies heavily on Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity. Masha Raskolnikov discusses this, the way her mother inhabited the role of high femme, and how being femme is a process of performing an imperfect version of the feminine ideal. Following from Butler, Raskolnikov notes that everyone fails to mimic the gender ideal perfectly and comments that “that not quite achieving [of the feminine ideal] is what femme is about.” Later, Raskolnikov quotes Joan Riviere: “Genuine womanliness and the masquerade are the same thing.” So what is masquerade? In a summary of the female masquerade, Susan Hayward writes, “Masquerade functions as an avowal of difference” (132). In this application, masquerade functions as an avowal of difference in gender expression. That difference, however, is not located across the gender binary; rather, the difference exists in the proliferation of imperfect expressions of femininity. Reading femme as masquerade has broader implications. Duggan and McHugh write that the femme is “the performer who demands performance in return” (165). She presents a challenge to the gender binary itself. If femme is masquerade, then femininity is masquerade; and if femininity is masquerade, then all gender is masquerade.

What lies behind the conscious masquerade is a critique of traditional femininity, informed by the politics of feminism; for many femmes, being femme is an act of feminist resistance. One FtF interviewee cites femmes’ “awareness of what it means to construct femininity.” Guinevere Turner says there is a “level of irony” in femme femininity; femmes know they are “playing a role,” and they do it ironically. It is this irony that supposedly differentiates the lesbian femme from feminine heterosexual women, though this line is hardly stable. Regardless, femmes define themselves. They have agency; they are subjects, not objects. Bitch notes, “Being a strong femme… goes against what society expects of me.” In this sense, femmes inhabit a position of power traditionally afforded to masculine bodies. With femmes’ awareness of constructed femininity comes a critique of the easy femme stereotype. Jewelle Gomez discusses Cheryl Clarke’s 1982 poem “Of Althea and Flaxie,” a butch/femme couple that defies strict stereotypes. Flaxie is a femme who “loved to shoot, fish [and] play poker” (Clarke qtd. in Coyote and Sherman 68). Flaxie defies the notion that there is one stereotypical, easily identifiable femininity. Similarly, the femmes interviewed in FtF do not represent the mainstream hegemonic idea of femininity. They are not exclusively young, blonde, white, skinny, clean-cut Barbie doll wannabes. Yes, femme is makeup, dresses, purses, and an obsession with shoes, but femme is also tattoos, dreadlocks, lip rings, and punk rock. Femme femininity is multiplicitous. Furthermore, the multiplicity of femininities femmes inhabit mirrors the challenge of multiplicity in defining femme.

Meliza Bañales refers to her femininity as unclean, complicated, and dirty—and says she likes that. Defining femme is unclean, complicated, and dirty, but maybe that is the power of femme. It resists easy definition and embraces a multiplicity of viewpoints that privilege the experience of those who identify as femme. To them, femme is masquerade, trans category, gender identity, resistance, and irony all at once. Femme is unclean, complicated, and dirty. Femme means different things to different people, but those meanings share an awareness of their contradictions, an investment in progressive gender politics, and subversive potential.

Works Cited

Duggan, Lisa, and Kathleen McHugh. “A Fem(me)inist Manifesto.” Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity. Eds. Chloë Burshwood Rose and Anna Camilleri. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2002. 165-70.

FtF: Female to Femme. Dir. Kami Chisholm and Elizabeth Stark. 2006.

Hayward, Susan. “Female Masquerade.” Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. 132-134.

Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme. Eds. Ivan E. Coyote and Zena SharmanVancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011. 23-26, 67-78, 310-12.


David Jackson

cover_rykoFebruary 23, 2013

In her piece titled Performing Race and Gender in Brazil, Lorraine Leu posits that the objectification of certain racialized and sexualized bodies is a component in the way that the dominating society forms its own national imagery by outlining a process of racial formation that highlights an overarching homogenizing nationalist project.  The creation of the freak, the cripple, and the rock star are designed to do the same work that a racialized sexuality does, sometimes in the same way, sometimes in a different way.

Who determines what is categorized as ‘freak’?  This subjective term requires a template of what is normal against which to define itself.  In a society of brown bodies, a white body would be looked upon as a freak.  In a Muslim world, the Christian is a freak.  The elemental criteria for freakdom is that it be an anomaly.  The same definition can be attributed to what describes an object of value.  Its very rarity is what gives it value.  This rarity has been “coveted, revered, and dreaded”, at times, all at once. (2, Thomson).  For a society that seeks to elevate itself as superior, it must form a sense of nationhood that depends upon a sense of unity and belonging that relies upon an essential sameness.  This is done by pointing out what is not the same.  This diversion from sameness allows for a politicizing of the freak body as society maps its concerns upon the freak body as a meditation on nationhood, and identity (2, Thomson).

The creation of the cripple does much of the same work in creating a homogenous imagery.  The cripple is the same as the freak in that its definition depends upon the template of what is not cripple.  However, the work that modern day handicapped politization does, does so with an illusion of inclusion that also allows for the formation of nationhood. What I mean by this is that while earlier categorizations of handicap worked much like freakdom is separating and highlighting its difference, modern day discourse works to pat itself on the back for allowing the inclusion of the cripple via accessible parking, pavement cutouts, accommodated seating in public venues, etc.  However this inclusion is mostly perfunctory, because it allows for the inclusion of a few and continues to exclude the larger body of the very community it claims to include.  The true work being done by modern day cripple accommodation is not the inclusion of a previously excluded group, but rather the continued perpetuation of a nationalist agenda that now seeks to “locate people with disabilities in a much larger, nationalistic narrative” of a “wonderfully American identity”  of diversity and able-bodiedness.   This new agenda isn’t so much for the disabled person as it is for the larger body politic (1, 2, McRuer, Wilkerson).

The rock star is a post industrial construct that allows society to continue to form nationhood by categorizing and defining what is different.  It also allows the continuation of societies desire to place the anomalous body on display.  The rock star allows for the adoration and propagation of the white heteronormative paradigm while simultaneously placing it into the role of the freak.  Therock star is both the same and yet not the same as the culture that it represents.  The rock star becomes the alpha representation of its society and is adored for what it represents and at the same time repulses for its excesses.  The subverted historical preoccupation with coveting the freak is now able to come full circle.  The colonizing society that has been fascinated by what is different is not able to create the illusion of itself as different and to worship itself for that difference and therefore no longer needs the freak.



Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie.  Freakery:  Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New

York: New York UP, 1996. Print.

Leu, Lorraine.  “Performing Race and Gender in Brazil”. Race/Ethnicity Vol. 4/No. 1.  Autumn


McRuer, Robert and Wilkerson, Abby L.  “Cripping the (Queer) Nation”.  Gay and Lesbian

Quarterly 9:1-2  Copyright 2003 Duke University Press.

Event: Intersectionality, Cultural Expression, & Art w/ Paul Farber

Tuesday, February 19
LGBT Center (3907 Spruce St), Univ. of Pennsylvania

Join Lambda Alliance, UMOJA, QPOC, and Race Dialogue Project in a discussion of queer figures in the Civil Rights Movement with a focus on the impact of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, and Audre Lorde. What connections can be made with the present day? How do issues of identity and Civil Rights intersect? Featuring Paul Farber, Lecturer in Urban Studies and co-author of This is the Day: The March on Washington and a discussion afterwards.

Ideology and Noir Conventions in Bound

If the defining factor of noir is its emphasis on the uncertainty and how to navigate an unknowable world, Bound fits the bill. The Wachowskis’ 1996 neo-noir gangster thriller addresses issues of uncertainty and what is (un)knowable not in regards to gender and sexuality, rather than crime. The film unsettles traditional notions of gender while simultaneously demanding and supporting a visible epistemology of sexuality. Bound re-appropriates noir conventions such as “camera angles, plot twists, character types, and other motifs” for ostensibly neo-noir purposes (Straayer 151). For Straayer, these neo-noir purposes involve vastly different ideological investments than traditional noir. This revision is most apparent in gender construction of Corky, as the apparent butch protagonist, and Violet, as the femme fatale/lesbian femme.

Despite being a woman, Corky is initially constructed as the traditional male protagonist of classic noir. She is visually coded as butch, works in a masculine profession, and lusts after the femme fatale. The films second scene, in the elevator, codes Corky’s gaze as masculine. The POV shot of Violet’s legs harkens back to traditional noir shots and fixes Corky in the traditionally male role. Bound, however, goes on to complicate Corky’s masculinity. First, Gina Gershon is unnaturally feminine for a typical butch. Her body is the one seen during the sex scene. Although she is ostensibly the film’s protagonist, the plot is not hers. While it is a convention in classic noir for the femme fatale to drive the story, she does not usually do so at the narrative expense of the masculine-coded protagonist. Corky is the character we see bound—an image repeated visually throughout the film and mnemonically in the title to emphasize her lack of control. Corky plays little part in the crime itself. She comes up with the plan and takes the money, but she spends most of her time listening against a wall while Violet does the heavy lifting, i.e., play-acting. It is Violet, not Corky, who climactically shoots Ceasar, and Violet, who deserves further analysis.

But first—a discussion of the traditional femme fatale. Straayer refers to the femme fatale as an “independent agent,” independent not only in the context of the story, but also independent of genre; although she is always referential of noir, the femme fatale is no longer contained by it (Straayer 152). Straayer also notes: “High femme characters not only carry the mark of sexuality but also stand charged with deceit and potential violence” (Straayer 152). The traditional femme fatale exploits her sexuality for material/economic gain. In a male-dominated world, she has agency; furthermore, her manipulations drive the actions of the male protagonist and determine the “destiny” of the film (Straayer 152). The classic gun-toting femme fatale is coded as phallic and further masculinized by her dominant, aggressive, and manipulative behavior (Straayer 155).

Violet’s identity as femme fatale or lesbian femme becomes the central conflict of the film (Straayer 157).  In classic film noir, the femme fatale is easily identifiable as such. Between her dramatic, sexual attire and brazen behavior, she stands out. Her aura of danger—while exaggerated through nondiegetic elements—is still immediately apparent to characters within the film. This is not the case with violet. Yes, she wears red dresses and plays the part of the seductress, but she remains unknowable. Trusting Violet not to be a femme fatale is proves to be a fatal mistake for “parody of masculinity” Ceasar (Straayer 156). Corky’s doubt, meanwhile, translates into doubt of Violet’s lesbian identity.

Returning, then, to Straayer’s “film noir destiny,” the destiny of the traditional femme fatale has clear ideological implications. Straayer notes: “she either died, reformed, or turned out not to be a femme fatale at all” and has no interest in “romantic coupling” (Straayer 153). Violet does not die, literally or metaphorically, and we are never asked to doubt her identity as a femme fatale. At first glance, she does not appear to reform; however, this bears closer analysis. At the end of the film, Violet and Corky drive off into the sunset, to start a new (presumably) crime-free life together. Violet is able to romantically couple. She chooses monogamy, rather than the promiscuity of her life in the world of the mob. Whether these choices constitute reform is debatable, but they certainly defy the narrative ending of the traditional femme fatale. If we accept the Violet is in fact a femme fatale, as the film suggests, then Bound calls into question the category of the femme fatale itself.

According to Straayer, “Violet is revealed to be both femme fatale and lesbian femme, duplicitous with men but not with Corky” (Straayer 158). That dual identity has its own ideological implications. Straayer ultimately reads Violet as a model feminist character, who doesn’t kowtow to traditional gender roles and actively fights for her own pleasure and destiny. However, Violet’s duplicity to everyone except Corky suggests something of the dated lesbian feminist utopian dream: sisterhood between women in a world that somehow exists beyond patriarchy (and by extension, men). Straayer concludes: “Through its narrative, Bound suggests that, in contrast to the heterosexual failings of classic film noir, women can trust each other” (Straayer 160). Not just women—lesbian women. For Straayer, both Violet and Corky complicate and revise traditional notions of masculinity and femininity, which allows Bound to propagate a queer ideology of gender and fluid sexuality.

Wallace, however, takes a dramatically different view of Bound’s ideology: “While the elusiveness of homosexuality is crucial to the film’s narrative, Bound simultaneously requires lesbianism to function evidentially, to disclose itself within a visual field” (Wallace 369). The opening scene of Corky bound in the closet plays into the queer economy of the closet, where homosexual identity is something that must be disclosed, revealed, and visible to the non-queer eye (Wallace 371). The ideology the closet supports is one “which organizes the relations of knowledge and ignorance which inadequately cordon off homosexuality from the heterosexuality for which it is everywhere mistaken” (Wallace 371). Wallace goes on to demonstrate how this need to make homosexuality knowable permeates the film. The unknowable nature of Violet as femme fatale/lesbian femme makes this most apparent. For Wallace, Bound is surprisingly conservative in its support of the epistemology of knowing and visibility, much like its classic noir counterparts.

Therefore, Bound’s characterization works primarily within the conventions of classic noir. The ideology Bound purports, however, can simultaneously be read as a challenge to or support for the conservatism at the heart of classic noir. Bound challenges gender roles but demands that sexuality remain knowable.

Works Cited

Bound. Dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski. 1996.

Straayer, Chris. “Femme Fatale or Lesbian Femme: Bound in Sexual Différance.” Women in Film Noir. 2nd ed. Ed. E. Ann Kaplan. London: British Film Institute, 1998. 153-61.

Wallace, Lee. “Continuous Sex: The Editing of Homosexuality in Bound and Rope.” Screen 41.4 (2000): 369-87.

Event: Philly Loves Women in Horror: Film Screening & Networking Event

Philly Loves Women In Horror

a film screening & networking event highlighting the ovarian auteurs of gore

When: February 7, 2013 @ 7: 30 pm
Where: The Rotunda – 4014 Walnut Street – Philadelphia, PA 19104
Time:   7:30PM
Admission: FREE! – Any donations offered will go directly to the Lil’ Filmmakers organization.
Web: http://www.facebook.com/phillyloveswomeninhorror

Women have been a creative force behind the lens since film’s inception. Amidst the peaks and valleys, women in film continue to tell their stories and build an audience, most uniquely in the horror film genre. Philly Loves Women In Horror is about showcasing their Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 9.19.49 AMefforts so that other women and men alike are inspired, entertained, and motivated by such a vibrant community. Come join filmmakers, fans, and artists alike for an hour of short films by talented women directors and producers in the horror film industry and an additional hour of getting to know women in horror who work, live, and love right in our city.

There will be free giveaways provided by various Women in Horror Month official sponsors that include Too Fast Apparel, Diabolique Magazine, The Dark Art of Mike Vanderhoof, Fangoria Magazine, Sourpuss Apparel, and Ghettosongbird.

Men! We need your voice too!

If you’re a dapper fellow in the local film community and enjoy the intellectual rigor and creative, collaborative effort with the opposite sex, your presence is required at Philly Loves Women In Horror! This event is about equality, not exclusion. If you dig the significance of emerging women horror directors, if they play a creative part in the stories you like to tell, develop, and promote, if you just want to expose yourself to great women horror directors you may have just heard about in passing, Philly Loves Women In Horror is for you.

This is an official event in conjunction with Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM), a month long celebration that happens every February wherein people all over the world create events and projects for charity that promote underrepresented female professionals in the film and art industries including directors, producers, cinematographers, FX Artists, painters, sculptors, and more. Women in Horror Recognition Month is a service provided by the Viscera Organization, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that expands opportunities for contemporary female genre filmmakers.

To gather more details about the Viscera Organization and Women in Horror Recognition Month, feel free to visit www.viscerafilmfestival.com and http://womeninhorrormonth.com.

All donations made  in support of Philly Loves Women In Horror will go to the She Shoots Movies, a video production program specifically for adolescent girls to learn writing, acting, directing and video production. The young women will be trained to be socially conscience media makers who use video as a tool to ignite healthy behavior and positive mental attitudes in all girls. Through She Shoots Movies, young women will come together to use the power of media to unite, and empower women.

Lil Filmmakers Inc. is a non-profit media and performing arts organization for youth and teens. Since 1999, our organization has been devoted to providing young people access to the resources to create, develop and produce media and movie projects. Our mission is to keep the arts viable in the communities by offering young people the opportunity to create art and give them the outlet to showcase their work. Our students are exposed to 21st century skill sets that will help enhance literacy; strengthen their interpersonal and communication skills; and make them proficient in digital video and computer technology. Lil’ Filmmakers’ philosophy is to transform our youth into artists and thinkers while nurturing them to become socially responsible community leaders.

Lil Filmmakers founder Janine Spruill is an entrepreneur and artist. A native of Philadelphia, Janine received her BA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University.  Shortly before graduation, Janine volunteered her time teaching youth in disadvantage communities video arts. Over the years, the video clubs have transformed into a thriving production company where youth have the opportunity to learn how to make movies and create professional projects. Janine continues to volunteer her time mentoring youth in her organization and community.