Repairing the Gap

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At a very early age boys are taught that they should be “masculine.” In order fit the hegemonic masculine image they must exhibit traits such as aggression, competitiveness, and strength. Gender stereotypes also reinforce the notion that boys should play and watch sports. For example, many boys are socialized at a young age by playing hockey with ‘mini sticks’, while girls are encouraged to play non-aggressive games such as ‘house’. As children grow up, these stereotypes continue to be reinforced. The propagation of these stereotypes work to reinforce the large gap in gender equality within the sporting industry.

Males have always dominated the fan base in sports and because of this there is a generalization that men are more knowledgeable and committed to sports than women. This male privilege has helped foster the creation of the term “Puck Bunny.” In 2004, the term “Puck Bunny” was added to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (Albrechtson, 2009). It is a word used in hockey that objectifies and stereotypes women; Puck Bunny refers to “a woman who goes to hockey games for the sole purpose of ‘scoring’ with one of the players afterwards, a hockey whore.” (Avery, 2009) This generalization that men have more knowledge of and commitment to sports and the concept of a Puck Bunny both work to oppress women in the sports industry. This has prevented women from being taken seriously or treated with respect within certain context of the sports world.

Women may have a difficult time in the male socialized sports world and this is exemplified through the story of Ashley Judd. Often, if one speaks out in opposition to the opinions of our patriarchal society, they become shunned. Judd’s story sheds light on this patriarchal and capitalistic control that is insidious within the entire sports industry. Judd, a 42-year-old actress and advocate for social justice cheered for the University of Kentucky’s basketball team during the SEC Tournament Finals on Sunday, March 15th, 2015. In the midst of the excitement, Judd tweeted against the opposing team, “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” (Time, 2015) In response to Judd’s tweet, twitter followers sent her explicit and threatening tweets. The content of these tweets objectified, insulted, sexualized, and dehumanized her. Judd explained to UsMagazine that the amount of gender based violence she experienced was “absolutely extraordinary” and resulted in her filing police reports (Lee, 2015). Through Judd’s story, we can understand that the male-dominated, capitalistic sports industry further increases the oppression of women and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

For years, professional female athletes have not been given the same opportunities that men have been given. The best example of this is the National Hockey League (NHL) where only men are allowed to play. Although there is a Women’s Canadian Hockey League (WCHL), it is far less supported or acknowledged in comparison to the NHL. In Mett Larkin’s article, The fight to sell women’s hockey: Can the CWHL become the WNBA, he explains that the CWHL has sponsors such as Scotiabank, Bauer, and Molson, yet these companies do not provide the significant financial aid that the league needs in order to break into a new popularity stratosphere. However, Sportsnet has made a four-year deal to broadcast three games during the Clarkson Cup tournament in March as well as the December’s CWHL All-Star Game (The Hockey News, 2015). Although these are positive gains for women, our patriarchal society still teaches boys and girls at an early age that is it male athletes who deserve the encouragement and high levels of legitimacy. Male athletes are therefore perceived as more profitable and have the best opportunities for success.

Not only does this gender inequality make it more difficult for women to play professional sports, but there are also many situations within the sports world where women are downgraded and hyper-sexualized. Serena Williams is the first black woman to be ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis (Gaston, 2014). Despite her achievements, she experiences body shaming, racism and dehumanization. Williams experiences exemplifies the white supremacy that controls the sporting industry. In one example, Sid Rosenberg, a radio host on 640 Sports referred to Williams as an “animal”. In other instances, remarks made about Williams include suggestions that black women aren’t “real women” and that they are “indistinguishable” from men due to their ‘dangerous’ black bodies (Desmond-Harris, 2015). The horrible backlash that Williams receives as a woman of colour illustrates how society is still affected by the long history of colonialism and slavery. As explored in tutorial during Week 6, during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade it was common for black women to be raped and victimized because they were viewed as property, free laborers and not civilized humans (Maria-Teresa, 2015). Similar to Laverne Cox’s video on the violence trans women of colour experience, it is apparent that racial inequality is still prevalent throughout society.

Both Ashley Judd and Serena Williams have been victims to the unfair treatment that women are subjected to within the sports world; however, Judd is a white woman and because of this she has a privileged positionality. This positionality allows her to have a voice in speaking out and raising awareness of the oppression women experience in the sports world. Judd does so by retweeting everyone’s tweets that related to her. In this act of defiance, Judd resists the patriarchal system and the misogyny that surrounds the sports industry. Although raising awareness is important in eradicating injustices, her protest stems from her experience as a white women and does not include mention of the oppression that black women experience in the sports world. This situation highlights the complexity around speaking out and raises the question: can one activist speak for all women?

In Danyel Haughton’s special lecture on Seeing is Not Believing, she emphasizes the importance of Black twitter and the use of the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter. Through the use of social media, the black community is able to speak up about the systematic and purposeful targeting they experience (Haughton, 2015). Twitter is a powerful tool, one that is utilized by both Judd and black communities around the world.Hopefully, the continual use of media activism will result in more support, acknowledgment and ultimately the eradication of the oppression women face in the sports industry.

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Work Cited

Albrechtson, Meagan. “She Got Game.” Toronto Sun. Canoe Sun Media, 6 June 2009. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.torontosun.com/life/2009/06/06/9697201-sun.html&gt;.

Avery, Martin. The Devils Wear Bauer (Not Prada). Lulu.com, 2009. 56. Print.

Charlotte, Alter. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/&gt;.

Desmond- Harris, Jenee. “Beyond Indian Wells: Serena Williams Has Been Consistently Disrespected for Her Entire Career.” Vox. Vox Media, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.vox.com/2015/3/11/8189679/serena-williams-indian-wells-racism&gt;.

Gaston, Corinne. “Serena and Venus Williams Battle More Body-Shaming.” Ms Magazine Blog. 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <http://msmagazine.com/blog/2014/10/23/serena-and-venus-williams-battle-more-body-shaming/&gt;.

Haughton. “Seeing Is Not Believing.” GNDS 125 Lecture . Queen’s University. Bioscience Complex, Kingston. 2 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Larkin, Matt. “The Fight to Sell Women’s Hockey: Can the CWHL Become the WNBA?”The Hockey News. Transcontinental Media G.P., 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/the-fight-to-sell-womens-hockey-can-the-cwhl-become-the-wnba/&gt;.

Lee, Esther. Ashley Judd Pressing Charges Against Twitter Trolls for Vulgar Tweets: They Need to “Take Personal Responsibility” US WEEKLY, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/ashley-judd-pressing-charges-against-twitter-trolls-for-vulgar-tweets-2015173&gt;.

Matani, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” Tutorial . , Kingston . 12 Feb. 2015. Class Lecture.

Repairing the Gap

Laverne Cox- The Face of Change

Laverne Cox is a very successful actress, reality TV star, producer, and social and political advocate. She also happens to be an African American transgender woman. On December 7th 2014, Everday Feminism published a speech by Laverne Cox titled Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Colour. In her speech, Cox discusses the violence and discrimination that trans woman of colour experience daily. Although this speech focuses on trans woman of colour, Cox has made a significant impact on the entire transgender community. Through the roles that Cox plays in mainstream media, she is helping to educate the public and challenge societal norms about what it means to be transgender.

Laverne Cox has become the face and voice for the transgender community in the media. When Orange is the New Black premiered on Netflix on July 11, 2013, Cox appeared as the role of Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary. Cox was the first openly transgendered woman of colour to portray a fictional transgender character. The character of Sophia and her interactions with the other inmates raises awareness around sex-reassignment operations, transmisogyny (the intersection of transphobia and misogyny) and the positive effects that can result from being true to oneself. Following Cox’s role in Orange is the New Black, on June 9th, 2014 Cox also became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. The title of the article by Katy Steinmetz, “The Transgender Tipping Point”, was also seen on the cover. Cox’s messages and influence has been disseminated on many media platforms; however, her exposure in OITNB and on Time magazine has been extremely important for educating the public on transgender issues.

The fact that Cox is also a trans woman of colour further places her in a very inspirational and powerful position. For she has not only become the voice for the transgender community but she has also brought awareness to major systems of oppression.

Transphobia, according to Oxford Dictionaries is: “The intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people” (Oxford Dictionary). According to the LGBT Mental Health Syllabus, in 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added gender identity disorder to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM). However, in May 2013, an updated diagnosis in the DMS was made and changed “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” (Mental Health Syllabus, 2013). This change demonstrates the shift in recognizing transgender as a personal feeling rather than a disorder. This fairly recent idea has pushed societal boundaries by questioning and contradicting the gender binary, heternormativity and cisgender assumptions. Through Cox’s lack of conformity to mainstream understandings of gender identity, she has demonstrated that it’s acceptable to be different. Cox is helping to slowly break down these negative barriers; and she simply does not allow them to stop her. Hopefully over time as Cox continues to address transphobia, negative stigmatization around transgender individuals will be eliminated and more tolerance will occur.

Unfortunately, the patriarchal society that we live in further oppresses and marginalizes Cox. A transgendered individual who undergoes a gender reconstruction from male to female often experiences further oppression. Some may question why a man would chose to give up his dominant position for a subordinate one in a society that values men and male domination. This idea has made trangendered females very vulnerable by being put in the spotlight for “choosing to” experience misogyny, sexism and inequality. Nonetheless, Cox demonstrates her ability to push these societal limits by being herself and remaining true to her gender identity.

Another major system of oppression that Cox experiences alongside trans woman of colour is racism. Just Conflict’s article Systems of Oppression states that the largest most oppressive legal structure in American history was the institution of slavery, further exploring how this oppressive system (slavery) continues today in the form of racism (Just Conflict, 2015). In Cox’s speech, Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Colour, she explains that women of colour are the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTGIA. On Monday March 2th, Haughton discussed in her lecture the idea of anti-blackness and shared the social media hashtag #blacklivesmatter. She explained violence and discrimination black people face and how these terms further enforce their systematic and purposeful oppression. Through understanding Cox’s speech and reviewing the class material, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent. Cox’s position makes her a powerful activist against racism; however, it is clear that there is much more that needs to be done in order to eradicate violence and targeting against groups of oppressed people.

This Saturday, March 14, Clean and Clear, a skincare company launched a new ad campaign called #SeeTheRealMe. Jazz Jennings, a 14-year-old transgender teen relates her story in a short commercial. This amazing narrative combined with Cox’s efforts in advocating for the transgender community, will hopefully help to make a strong and positive impact on society. Because of individuals like Cox and Jennings, awareness, knowledge and social reconstruction is being addressed. Cornell West states: “justice is what love looks like in public.” Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Good Reads, 2015) Both men expressed the belief that change will come once the values, morals and judgment of others are changed. It is my personal opinion that we are on the right path towards the transgender community being able to feel the love that they deserve.

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Work Cited

“A Quote by Martin Luther King Jr.” Goodreads. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/111013-the-arc-of-the-moral-universe-is-long-but-it

“Definition of Transphobia in English:.” Transphobia. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/transphobia

“June 9th, 2014 | Vol. 183, No. 22 | U.S.” Time. Time, 9 June 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from http://time.com/magazine/us/135460/june-9th-2014-vol-183-no-22-u-s/

“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).”Everyday Feminism. 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/&gt;.

Nichols, JamesMichael. “Jazz Jennings, Transgender Teen, Becomes Face Of Clean & Clear Campaign.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/14/jazz-jennings-clean-clear_n_6864236.html&gt;.

“Positive Space Network.” Positive Space Network RSS. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <http://web.uvic.ca/psn/resources/manual/oppression/&gt;.

“Systems of Oppression:.” Systems of Oppression- Just Conflict. Creative Commons License. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.creativeconflictresolution.org/jc/maps-1/systems-of-oppression.html

“The Advocate: Laverne Cox.” Glamour. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.glamour.com/inspired/women-of-the-year/2014/laverne-cox&gt;.

“Transgender.” LGBT Mental Health Syllabus. Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. Retrieved from http://www.aglp.org/gap/6_transgender/

Haughton. “Seeing Is Not Believing.” GNDS 125 Lecture . Queen’s University. Bioscience Complex, Kingston. 2 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Laverne Cox- The Face of Change

Blackbird Film Review

On Tuesday, February 4th I attended the 2015 Reelout Film Festival at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library and saw the film Blackbird. Directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, Blackbird is an emotional, powerful and beautiful story of the life of Randy Rousseau. Randy, a religiously conservative black teenager is forced to face challenging obstacles that question his race, faith and gender identity in order for him to learn what it truly means to be himself.

The film opens with a remarkable rendition of Randy singing, “I Would Be Like Jesus” alongside his church choir. The scene quickly transitions into him making out with another male choir member halfway through the song. When Randy wakes up in a panic, the audience realizes that this scene was just a dream. This powerful opening scene guides the audience to understand that Randy’s confused thoughts and uneasy feelings are as a closeted homosexual. Throughout the film these dreams coincide with Randy’s difficult issues of having to deal with his little sister’s disappearance, his parent’s separation and his ongoing attraction to the same sex all while trying to be a faithful Christian. Observing how Randy handled his distress while managing to keep his head up was very moving and inspirational. It is through the roles Randy plays in the theatre, his supportive friendships and his experimentation with the opposite sex that Randy is able to ultimately accept his gay sexuality and find self-acceptance.

After witnessing her son making out with his friend Marshall, the film cuts to Randy, his mother, and the Pastor sitting on the stairs in their church. Randy is in his mothers arms while the Pastor’s hands are on Randy, praying. The Pastor is reciting words like; Clear this child. Heal him. Cleanse him. Erase his sins. Have mercy. (Blackbird, 2014) Interspersed with the Pastor’s words, Randy repeatedly says “Save me.” (Randy, Blackbird, 2014) The combination of intensifying music, dramatic voiceovers and fast past editing all create a very emotional scene. In fact, I believe that this scene late in the film is the best executed one.

This heartbreaking scene illuminates the complexities of Randy’s ambivalent feelings about coming out and his being open about his sexuality in light of his religious beliefs. In the New Testament, it consistently states that homosexual activity is a sin and is a result of denying or disobeying God. (Slick, 2015) This scene is very important as it shines light on the struggles that many people have to face when trying to accept their sexuality while also trying to remain faithful to their religious beliefs.

Another important issue that the film addresses concerns the stigma around racism and sexuality. The fears of homophobia, discrimination, prejudice and rejection in the black community has prevented many males from accepting their gay sexuality and being open about their sexuality. According to Dr. Eric Grollman, PhD, the term down low or DL, specifically refers to black men in heterosexual relationships who secretly have sex with men. (2013) The idea of hegemonic masculinity discussed in Gendered Worlds, chapter one, reinforces the idea that in order for men to fit society’s image of the ‘proper man,’ they should be heterosexual, and therefore, gay men believe they have to be in the down low.

I found it very uplifting and inspirational to see that by the end of the film, Randy, a black religious male, was able to accept his sexuality regardless of the shame-based messaging he continually received. I believe that this film will help to break down barriers for individuals in the future as well as encourage more filmmakers to present race and various types of masculinity equally through queer films in order to address these negative stigmas.

I found the use of costumes in the film to also be very interesting. In the first few scenes Randy is seen wearing a clean and perfectly pressed school uniform. It is not until Marshall, his soon to be boyfriend, picks him up for play rehearsal that we see Randy out of his uniform for the first time. He is still wearing clean, tailored clothing but he is now seen wearing a purple button down shirt. In the final scene in the film we see Randy in a much less tidy presentation with his shirt untucked. As Randy becomes more himself, his clothing slowly becomes less restricted. These subtle costume changes help to convey the message of self-acceptance in the film and further reflects Randy’s growing self-acceptance by ‘shedding’ his outer persona.

Overall, watching Blackbird was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. It was a nice treat to view a film on a weekday afternoon. Asides from a quick detour from getting lost I managed to secure a good seat for the film. Everyone was very friendly and the majority of the audience were young women. At the end of the film there was a moment of silence during which everyone digested what they had just witnessed. As I left the film I felt very moved. I continued to reflect on the film for many days after. The most enjoyable part was seeing the firsthand experience of the challenge of coming out. I also gained a greater empathy for the difficulties that some individuals may face when trying to be themselves. Patrik-Ian Polk did a marvelous job in portraying a coming out and coming of age story. I would highly recommend this film.

 

Work Cited

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. “Introduction.” Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2015. 7-8. Print.

Blackbird. Perf. Julian Walker, Kevin Alless, Mo’Nique. KBiz Entertainment, Tall Skinny Black Boy Production, 2014. Film.

Grollman, Eric Anthony. “Being On The “Down Low”: What Does It Mean?” Kinsey Confidential RSS. The Kinsey Institute, 8 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

Slick, Matt. “What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

Blackbird Film Review