Week 7; February 24th-March 2nd Blog Entry #2 (Done by M).

A Reelout Experience

The Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival put on an interesting display of short films, covering a range of contentious issues about sex and gender, like in the movies “The Reading Salon”, and “You Are Not Your Genitals”. The festival also put on more lighthearted varieties, like “Fucking Butterflies”, which was about exactly that. At the end of the production, students were given the opportunity to ask the filmmakers questions, which was both necessary and useful to the students due to the abstract nature of the films. For this blog, I will review class concepts that these short-films touched upon, namely, the socially constructed nature of society, and notion of sex versus gender.

During the question and answer period, it was revealed that all of the films were made on the camera of an iphone, which was especially ironic in one of my preferred films, called “Obsession”, because the premise of the film was to stereotypically show the online dating persona homosexual people use on cell phone applications like “Grindr”. This film was focused with placing a satirical take on the outrageous descriptions, pictures, and messages the filmmakers often see on this very application. “Obsession”, in contrast to most films on the market today, proved to be unconventional. This is largely because of whom the film was targeted to: whereas most films made today are marketed at bigger demographics, like heterosexual people, “Obsession” was meant to be a humorous movie for the users of applications like “Grindr”. However, in doing so, this movie still, accidently or not, related to heterosexual men and women, because the point of the film was not only to mock the stereotypical profiles of people who use applications like this, but also to stress that these people conform to what they think society expects of them. To put this into perspective, consider the fifth lecture of GNDS125 when we discussed the movie “Twilight”. In “Twilight”, there is an abundance of “whiteness”, “female virginity”, and “heterosexuality”. These are the qualities moviegoers often look for when choosing a movie. This is contrary to the types of films represented at the Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival, particularly, “Obsession”. Overall, “Obsession” points out unacknowledged flaws in society, the fact that most people feel they must conform to a socially constructed standard to be accepted. The irony comes at the end of the movie when the iphone is dropped, and a passerby leans down to pick up the phone for the cameraman. This is ironic because at this point, the two men seem to fall in love, which challenges the online dating application as a legitimate means of meeting “real” people.

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Another film that especially left an impression me was “You Are Not Your Genitals”. This film starts with Kiley May, a self-described “two-spirit, trans, queer and genderqueer human being”. This video is unlike any other video featured at the festival. May breaks the fourth wall immediately, and announces that they (as they clarify trans people should be referred to) are making this video as a response to the question, “what’s your sex?” May believes that they must clarify the difference between sex and gender. “Sex is fucking”, May says, and gender is “not what is in between your legs but your brain, psychology and consciousness”. This relates back to greater class themes of sex vs. gender, and the common misuse of the two. However, as we have learned in class “gender is not inherently connected to one’s physical anatomy”(“Understanding Gender”), it is the “complex interrelationship between those trains and one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither” (“Understanding Gender”). Sadly. Western society sees gender as a binary notion, with two harshly unchanging options of male or female. This is a very contentious issue, as gender-ambiguous supporters advocate for equal treatment of all people, which would include public washrooms for gender-ambiguous people, and official recognition of their choices. This has yet to be seen in a liberal society that claims to be progressive. Overall, during their brief video, May was able to hammer home the point that “you are not your genitals”.
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The Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival presented a unique opportunity to discover new genres of film not represented at your average movie theatre. The Festival exceeded my expectations, because I have not attended anything like that before at Queen’s University. I was surprised to hear that Reelout tradition has been going on for fifteen years, and has expanded into schools, specializing in “diversity and gender diversity education” (“Reelout”). One thing I mentioned that I especially enjoyed was the question and answer period, in which the students had the opportunity to learn some of the inspiration behind these films. While some of the films were for humor and entertainment, others had deep meaning behind them. Overall, the Reelout Festival opened my eyes to the diverse groups that Queen’s has to offer.

– M

“Understanding Gender.” Gender Spectrum. N.p.. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <https://www.genderspectrum.org/understanding-gender&gt;.

“Introduction.” Reelout Arts Project Inc. . N.p.. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <http://www.reelout.com/about/introduction/&gt;.

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4 Comments

  1. Week 7; February 24-March 2nd Blog – Comment/Response (Done by S).

    I found one of your comments to be of particular interest in regards to the Reelout film festival, “While some of the films were for humor and entertainment, others had deep meaning behind them” reminding us that films are made for different reasons. Directors are motivated by their own personal agendas for creating the films that they show as finished products. Perhaps they stem from personal experiences, the desire to honour someone or to educate the public in areas that they may not be familiar with in hopes of breaking down barriers. So really, what’s different between these films and mainstream films? What’s different is what we the viewers bring along with us to the movies. It lies in expectations and assumptions that relate to the dominant social norms, roles and values created and maintained by those in society who hold power and authority over others. Reading your descriptions of the series of shorts that you saw I was struck by one recurring thought; the constant battle that is fought everyday by people in society in regards to sex and gender. For those who identify outside the conventional norms of heteronormativity the very acts of ‘doing everyday life’ pose immense challenges created through feeling the need to conform to social expectations for acceptance. The message that I am left with after reading your blog and combining it with the class readings and dialogues is that understanding and differentiating between sex and gender is extremely personal. If gender is “the complex interrelationship between those traits [brain, psychology and consciousness] and one’s internal sense of self as male and female” (“Understanding Gender”) and not just the physical representation of the body then it would follow that there may be as many definitions of gender as there are people. Each and every person will bring their own uniqueness and individuality to the creation of this identification and that presents challenges for society as a collective whole due to the depth of diversity. Society enjoys rules, definitions and labels that create structure removing ambiguity and within sex and gender identification, rules and binding definitions are losing the battle to diversity. We are a society experiencing the growing pains of change.

    – S.

  2. I had the opportunity to see this film as well, and I agree that the question and answer period was very helpful. Many of the shorts were difficult to understand and could have been easily misinterpreted. In a way, I think this is essentially what homosexuals and LGBTs experience. I think society feels threatened by them for being different than the standard male and female. I see this as a significant cause for why heterosexuals immediately put up their guard and fail at even trying to understand why LGBTs are the way they are. Thus, I found that having the filmmakers comment on the roots of their films made me further appreciate their stories as they seemed even more real. The debrief took these shorts from potentially passive films to relatable ones.
    You Are Not Your Genitals had a similar lasting impression on me. Kiley May’s strong emotion on the topic of sex and gender was especially refreshing as minority groups tend to go unheard, yet he made himself loud and clear. It’s unfortunate that LGBTs have to even being to make videos like such, explaining terms and perspectives because society can’t simply accept something that is ‘outside the box’. Amongst the constant improvements and changes within society, gender as a binary notion is certainly one that is dated and restricting.

    -J.

  3. I really liked that you touched on how infuencial Popular Culture is in our lives at the moment. The example given of ‘grindr’ is a prime example of how people think they need to make themselves appear or sound different in order to attract viewers. They change and conform to what they believe society expects of them and it can be very harming to people who take these stereotypes and expectations seriously.
    I thought it is a really powerful message that “gender is not what is in between your legs but your brain, psychology and consciousness.” Too many people think that sex and gender is the same thing but they could not be any more different and by the way you described this film, I think they did a great job of addressing this issue and proving a very good point too.
    -R-

  4. Having seen this film as well, I thought that it this was a solid review of a few of the more memorable and impactful short films in it. Obsession and You Are Not Genitals were two of the more influential films that were easily accessible to the audience and I think that that is so because one (You Are Not Your Genitals) provides a clear explanation of some of the main focuses in this class, such as the importance of the difference between sex and gender. Obsession’s satire view on the way that people have become obsessed with using their phones to label themselves made coming to this realization striking. It was also comical due to the fact that they used a smartphone to film their movie. The clear message in all of the films that is expressed clearly in this film review is that sex and gender are not synonymous, nor should people think of them that way.

    -L.

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