A Fine Line by valarmorghulis

There is a very fine line between appreciating and appropriating the culture of others. What makes the difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation? Where is the line drawn? In my opinion, Cultural Appropriation stems from a place of privilege coupled with an ignorance of the original cultural importance. Power Structures play an important role in cultural appropriation. Often times it is white people appropriating the culture of other marginalized minorities. They select aspects of the culture that are fashionable or trendy and ignore the meaning or symbolism of the item. For it to be cultural exchange “there needs to be some element of mutual understanding, equality, and respect for it to be a true exchange,” and you should be “engaging with a culture as a respectful and humble guest, invitation only,” (Uwujaren 2013).

There is also the difference between restricted and unrestricted symbols (âpihtawikosisân 2012). Restricted items are items or symbols that are earned, or replicated symbols that can be used officially by people who have earned them, or can be mocked by people who have not. Unrestricted symbols are things that do not require achievement and are free to use (âpihtawikosisân 2012). This is helpful in drawing the line between cultural appropriation vs. appreciation. “Restricted” symbols are often used when it comes to cultural appropriation. If a person not of a plains culture were to wear a native headdress, it would be seen as appropriation as they have not earned the headdress, nor do they know the meaning behind it. The most brave and powerful people in a tribe only wore the native headdress, and they earned a feather every time the tribe felt they acted in a particularly brave way (Indians.org). Therefore, people who wear the headdress are coming from a place of privilege to use the article as a statement of fashion. They are ignoring and disrespecting the original culture and the importance they put behind it.

Another issue with cultural appropriation is the portrayal of the Asian cultures in the Western world. Edward Said coined the term Orientalism to examine the way Asian cultures are stereotyped from a colonialist ideology. Huffington Post examined the portrayal of a few stars portraying acts with “Asian influences.” In particular they looked at Katy Perry’s “geisha-inspired,” AMA performance, Selena Gomez’s “Hindu-themed” Billboard Award’s performance, and Lady Gaga’s “burqa-accessorized wardrobe” (Duca 2013). It is extremely risky for celebrities to portray these cultures, when they themselves have no association to them. Celebrities have such a wide sphere of influence; they open up what is acceptable to their fans. If celebrities are portraying the ideals of cultural appropriation to consumers, they are taking a part in the cultural production of these negative actions.

A Sociological Images article examined cultural appropriation in tattoos. Many people get Chinese or Japanese symbols tattooed on them with no relation to either language or culture and even less knowledge of what the symbols actually mean. The article discusses a blog, Hanzi Smatter, who asks for tattoo submissions of Japanese and Chinese writing, and tells people what their tattoos actually mean (Christensen 2012). Hanzi Smatter discusses how most of the tattoos do not mean what they think they do, and some have no meaning whatsoever (Christensen 2012). Hanzi Smatter states that “some tattoo shops use this gibberish font for tattoos—using the font to spell out words letter by letter, when Chinese and Japanese don’t work that way,” (Christensen 2012). This shows the clear consumerism of these aspects of cultural appropriation. There is such a market for these “exotic” looking tattoos, that tattoo parlours have incorrect symbols, and people do not even look into it. This shows the privilege of some to use a part of a culture to look good, with a complete ignorance of the actual meanings behind it.

As a white female, I have no experience with my culture being appropriated. However, I have seen others glorify certain aspects of other cultures for their own benefit with little knowledge of the culture behind it. Around Halloween, my building had a meeting about cultural appropriation in costumes around this time. Most of the people understood why certain elements, such as “black face,” were completely wrong. However, many of the people on my floor became quite insulted when they were told they had to be careful when emulating certain aspects of Disney princesses, like Mulan and Pocahontas. The message here was not do not be your favourite princess, rather, be careful how you portray certain elements, as it could be insulting to others culture. Coming from a place of privilege, it was difficult for them to see why wearing Pocahontas’s “native” outfit could be seen as problematic or insulting.

In conclusion, it is often difficult to draw that line between appreciating and appropriating, but it ultimately comes down to a knowledge and respect of others culture. People need to recognize the “restricted” and “unrestricted” elements and work from there. I am by no means saying you should not appreciate the beauty of different cultures, but you should be aware of what you are appreciating.

Works Cited

âpihtawikosisân,. 2012. ‘An Open Letter To Non-Natives In Headdresses’. Retrieved March 9, 2015 (http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/).

Christensen, Wendy. 2012. ‘Lost In Translation: Tattoos And Cultural Appropriation » Sociological Images’. Thesocietypages.org. Retrieved March 9, 2015 (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/04/13/lost-in-translation-tattoos-and-cultural-appropriation/).

Duca, Lauren. 2013. ‘Cultural Appropriation 101: Feat. Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus And Selena Gomez’.The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 9, 2015 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/cultural-appropriation-katy-perry_n_4337024.html).

Indians.org,. 2015. ‘The Symbolic Meaning Of An Indian Headdress’. Retrieved March 9, 2015 (http://www.indians.org/articles/indian-headdress.html).

Uwujaren, Jarune. 2013. ‘The Difference Between Cultural Exchange And Cultural Appropriation’.Everyday Feminism. Retrieved March 9, 2015 (http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/).


Modern Day Take On The Cliché “Boy meets Girl” Love Story by reeses96

This movie takes place in a small town, where Ricky (Michelle Hendley), a beautiful young transgender girl doesn’t believe there to be any boys left in town to fall in love with so Ricky takes into consideration changing her sexual orientation/preference. While Ricky, with the dream of becoming a fashion designer, waits for a letter to come from fashion school in New York, she meets a new girl named Francesca (Alexandra Turshen) who waits for the return of her Marine fiancé David (Michael Galante). The two girls become close friends that quickly turned into more than just friends. Watching Ricky become invested in Francesca, Robby (Michael Welch), Ricky’s close childhood friend is let thinking about his feelings for her. Upon the early return of David, drama arises amongst the four leaving relationships and the future left questionable.

Boy meets Girl as showcased in the 2014 Reelout Kingston Queer movie festival is the most recent work of writer and director Eric Scaeffer. What is so refreshing about the up and coming star Michelle Hendley is while she portrays a transgender girl in the movie; off screen she is a transgender women herself. This sweet, funny, romantic movie focuses on the themes of self-acceptance, and friendship, following your dreams while also focusing on the theme of transphobia and homophobia.

This film involves many of its characters taking a step back and reviewing some of the choices they’ve made. Ricky struggles with her search for love and how her future will pan out having not gotten into fashion school. Robby must act on his feelings for Ricky, ones that he’s always seemed to have, but never pursued. Francesca with having slept with Ricky while engaged to David, and David for how transphobic he is towards Ricky.

David is aggressively transphobic, voicing his opinion after learning about Francesca and Ricky’s new found friendship. He asserts hegemonic masculinity, showing dominance when he forbids Francesca of seeing Ricky, becomes aggressive with Francesca in public, and attempts to assault Ricky after finding out about the affaire. It is later revealed that it is all a cover. David didn’t hate Ricky; in fact he was very much infatuated with her, which lead to the two having sex in high school. Afraid of how he would look in the eyes of others, especially the Marines, David simulates this pure homophobic character.

One scene that really stood out for me was when Francesca is invited over to Ricky’s house and asks Ricky if she has a tampon. And while everyone in the room just stares at Francesca, she further pursues the matter continually asking, as if she were completely clueless as to why Ricky would not have any tampons. The way I take how naïve Francesca is of Ricky being transgender as a sign of how accepting she is of Ricky and how she doesn’t view her as anything other than an average girl. She never acts discomforted; she is merely kind hearted and a genuine friend. Of course being cisgender, Francesca had questions at some point, but she was always polite and understanding of Ricky’s response.

This just goes to show that while many may not be accepting of those who are transgender or even homosexual, there are always people that are. Thus relating back to Ricky’s mother, who is out of the picture, we slowly discover that she was not accepting of her son becoming a girl. While Ricky holds on to this burden with her mother, it was wonderful to see that Ricky had such a supportive father and brother who loved Ricky for everything she is.

It was interesting to see the different side of the typical romantic comedy from what I’m used to seeing in the theatre. While following the lines of a romantic comedy, this movie had more meaning then just a happily ever after. Even as society has evolved and is more accepting of the LGBTQ community then many years ago, it still doesn’t come through in the media, Hollywood movies in particular, as maybe it should. I think this is a great movie that could be easily transitioned into larger community M. It was not too intense, and plot wise pretty much follows typical romantic movies, with slightest change that it’s main character is transgender. This could open up the LGBTQ films to be shown to the general public and not just one viewing in the Reelout festival.

As far as my experience goes, it was a very cold walk from the Queens campus to the screening room downtown. There was such a great turn out for the movie I was glad to have gotten my ticket in advance from the SHRC on campus; there was a long line of people just hoping to get in, with so few seats left to be bought. Given how popular the festival, if not this movie in particular turned out to be, I believe the movie could have benefitted in being shown in a larger setting. Overall, I very much enjoyed the movie and had a great first experience with the LGBTQ community.

By: reeses96

Flying in the Face of Perceived Femininity: the life and work of Elizabeth Streb

Our ideas of gender roles have shifted dramatically in recent years. For example, it is becoming more common to hear of men staying home with children and women being the breadwinners. Although this shift has occurred, our ideas of what is acceptable in terms of representing these new roles have not kept pace. Items such as a dress are subject to gender polarization. For people of the LGTBQ community who practice “doing gender”, they are challenging the natural attitude, which often leads to violence. For some, exercising bodily autonomy in this way is much easier, leaving them virtually unscathed.

In Catherine Gund’s film, Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb Vs. Gravity, the life and work of Elizabeth Streb is documented. She and her group of STREB dancers crash, fly and get injured, challenging the emphasized feminity of dance and social norms about gender and representation. Their success so extreme it literally has them dangling hundreds of feet in the air for a six day event at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Streb tells her story of growing up in the 1960’s: being adopted into a middle class family, spending a great deal of time with her father – even accompanying him to construction jobs at a very young age. Out of these experiences she developed her interest, “Pop Action”, a term she coined to describe getting beyond personal protection to find a new level of strength, thus, increasing possibilities. An interest in dance also evolved, which was seemingly odd, given her gender socialization.

At first glance, Streb appears to be “doing gender”. Her short hair-cut, boxy, oversized blazers, dress shirts and belt buckles all possess a very over-emphasized masculine quality. It suggests to the audience that she has chosen to represent herself as male when thinking of the gender binary. She tells her story as she prepares for a dinner party for all of her close friends.  The appearance of her chopping, cooking and stressing over a seating plan is in sharp contrast to her over-emphasized masculine attire. One quickly comes to the realization that she is not “doing gender” in terms of the gender binary, but, rather, the gender spectrum. She is strategically “cherry-picking” her clothing, mannerisms and responsibilities within her gay partnership to represent herself as she feels on the inside: genderless or equal.

As she waits for her guests to arrive, she shows pictures of herself from the past. The images are of a stereotypical dancer from the 1980’s in a leotard, seemingly embracing femininity. As one observes the sharp contrast between the two images, one cannot help but wonder when Streb made the transition to the current image she now possesses and why. She paints a picture of struggle while trying to “make it” in New York, both in the dance industry and as a member of the LGBT community. She strategically identifies privilege within a relationship with a photographer in the dance industry: in this relationship, she developed an ally and eventually solidarity that helped to advance her career in dance. In the evening, she congregated illegally with other members of the LGBT community. Given that she went through the second and third waves of feminism while living in New York, it becomes apparent that the way she chooses to represent herself, as well as her work in the dance industry, was heavily influenced by these movements. Gender equality is her focus.

As the focus shifts from her to her dancers, the influence of the second and third waves of feminism becomes even more apparent. When watching the dancers on stage, one observes that there is no difference between the male and female dancers in terms of size or dress. Everyone appears equal. While male dancers do play an important role, the focus is predominantly on the female dancer, with little to no focus on race. The film highlights the female dancers as challenging the emphasized femininity of the dance industry with their size. This is where the influence of the feminist movements is most heavily felt in Streb’s work, in my opinion. She does not just try to bring women in line with men through appearance: it appears that she is erasing gender altogether, creating an image of equality. The size and amount of muscle that Streb’s dancers possess would be seen as unacceptable in most other dance companies.

Fast forward to the 2012 London Olympic Games and we see these same dancers dangling hundreds of feet in the air from an enormous Ferris wheel. Streb says that it was in that moment that she realized “It’s not what they were doing that mattered, but where”. This was the most profound moment in the film for me. The cables that the dancers hung from constrained their movement, allowing only for a very simplistic form of dance. The dance itself was not particularly special; it was the fact that it was done in the sky that made this a truly magical moment that will forever be entrenched in the history of dance. I realized in that moment that Streb waited to “do gender” in the way in which she had chosen until had achieved the social status required to support such a venture. In my opinion, I think that Streb is now using her privilege to act as an ally for those who are subjected to violence for exercising bodily agency in a way that challenges social norms. For me, this was an poignant reminder that we have a long way to go in terms of equality and exercising bodily agency. More importantly, the film was a message of hope, knowing we are making progress towards this.

A typical love story? by valarmorghulis

Boy Meets Girl (2014)

Cast: Michael Welch, Michelle Hendley, Alexandra Turshen, and Michael Galante

Director: Eric Schaeffer

Synopsis: Michelle Hendley stars as the stunning transgender girl, Ricky an aspiring fashion designer, along side her childhood best friend Robby (Michael Welch). When a new girl Francesca (Alexandra Turshen) comes into their lives as she waits for her Marine fiancé (Michael Galante) to come back from war. When Francesca becomes more than a friend for Ricky, Robby is forced to examine the feelings he has for Ricky that he has kept buried for all these years (Reelout).


Eric Schaeffer brings a new twist to the classic, cheesy romance film we are so accustomed to seeing with Boy Meets Girl. The film brings the classic story into a new light with gender and sexualities being portrayed in ways you do not normally see on the big screen.

Schaeffer brought in an interesting element with the video backstory of Ricky’s transition and history with her mother. Schaeffer starts the story out with very little information, only that Ricky’s mother is not in the picture. The story unfolds and you find out that Ricky’s mother was not okay with her daughter being a MTF (male to female) transgender women. Ricky mentions in the video that it was difficult not having someone so close to her be accepting of who she are. The final video clip ends with the classic “it gets better” mantra. Although this is a very cliché and overused statement, it is also uplifting to others in her situation. The use of the unaccepting mother in this story also brings an interesting element to the movie. It shows that some people may not always accept a person who is not the typical cisgender person. However they also portray a strong base for Ricky in her father, brother, and Robby. The film does a good job of showing both the extremely accepting and unaccepting views when it comes to telling people difficult truths.

Although this movie pushes many of the boundaries with gender and sex, there is no movement on the front of race. The entire cast is white, with no representation of people of colour. This enforces the idea that only white people can push boundaries with what can be shown on the big screen.

Another main storyline is the homophobia and transphobia from the Francesca’s marine fiancée, David. David is very opposed to Francesca being friends with Ricky, often misgendering her and calling her a “tranny” in a derogatory manner. David becomes very aggressive with Francesca when he finds out she slept with Ricky, and even goes as far as attempting to beat up Ricky. David portrays hegemonic masculinity as he attempts to assert his male dominance over both Francesca and Ricky, not willing to show any weakness. The story unfolds and the audience finds out that the reason for David’s behavior is the fact that he had sex with Ricky in high school. The idea of compulsory heterosexuality is at play in these scenes, as David does not want to be seen as homosexual, as he worries about what the people in the marine’s with think of him. He wants to maintain the perceptions that everyone already has of him.

One of the most pivotal scenes is the sex scene between Francesca and Ricky. One of the reason’s this scene is so important is the practice of informed consent. As the kissing becomes more intense and the two girls end up on Ricky’s bed, Ricky stops the moment to make sure this is what Francesca wants. The two discuss previous experiences, birth control, and what to expect since Ricky is in transition and taking estrogen. Even though in the beginning of the scene Francesca did not want to discuss anything, Ricky forces the conversation to make sure that both of them are fully comfortable with the situation. Ricky asks the question several times to make sure that Francesca is definitely okay with what is happening. This scene passes on an extremely important message of making sure both partner’s are okay with what is happening, and being willing to stop if at any point a person is no longer comfortable.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to be a part of this film festival in attending this movie. It was interesting to get to see the classic rom-com trope be remade into something that expresses the romance with all people, not just the stereotypical heterosexual male and female couple. The atmosphere of the festival made you feel right at home, with people snapping at the amazing moments, or gasping along with you at the astounding plot twists. Although the film does not address any issues of race or features any people of colour, it is an accessible film for people who enjoy a good romantic comedy.

By: valarmorghulis

Reelout,. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.

Drowning, both Mentally and Physically by doglover1

For the Reelout Film Festival I watched the suspenseful, hard-hitting drama called “Drown”. Directed by Dean Francis, the film took place on the sandy beaches of Sydney, Australia and was centred on a man fighting his sexual attraction for another man, feeling pressured to stay within the boundaries of society’s constructed gender binaries. The film was filled with passion and violence, truly representing the struggle that so many individuals apart of the LGBTQ community face, especially when trying to fit in or when coming out to their friends and families.

The story begins when an attractive man named Phil joins Sydney’s Surf Club and the seemingly tough man with a large ego, Len, doesn’t accept him or his feelings he has for him. Phil begins to outshine Len on the job and from the beginning there is a sense of anger and hostility that Len holds over Phil. The story is told from Len’s perspective, he is seen continuously repeating to himself that he is worthless and when there is a flashback to a time his father abused him, it is evident that Len’s father believed in compulsory heterosexuality and would not accept the possibility that Len could be gay. Eventually Len could not hold back his anger anymore, viciously abusing Phil he leaves him bloody, bruised and betrayed on the bathroom floor. Phil never tells on him, but Len is still kicked out of the club, the one place where he felt accepted and powerful.

Phil ends up gaining the title of Lifesaving Champion, another reason for Len to hate him and when they all go out on the town to celebrate, the night takes a turn for the worst. Phil’s boyfriend shows up at the bar and is faced with ridicule by not only the members of the swim club but also Phil, perhaps ashamed and afraid of what the others might think of him, Phil leaves with Len and his best friend named Meat. The night continues and Len doesn’t stop poking fun at Phil’s sexual orientation, the three men stumbling around intoxicated enter a gay bar. It is here that Len finds himself attracted to the men around him and engages in sexual activity with someone. Drunk, high, embarrassed by his sexual behavior and extremely aggravated, Len takes Phil and Meat to the beach. Len ridicules, beats and sexually assaults Phil while instructing Meat to dig a hole in the sand and despite the fact that Meat tells Len to stop, knowing what they were doing was wrong, he continues to do so. With the sun rising, Phil is embarrassed, harassed and buried naked, only his head visible and when Len is confronted by Meat about his sexuality he insists on seeing who can swim the furthest as a way to prove his ‘manliness’.

The end scene was the most powerful and shocking in my opinion, all throughout the movie Len’s conscience continuously goes back to a time when he let a woman swim out into the ocean and commit suicide, it haunted him like his father and his forbidden homosexuality. In this scene Len does not stop swimming when Meat does, instead he continues on into the sea until his legs can’t keep kicking and his body sinks down, reminding himself of all of the mistakes he had made and all of the feelings he had bottled up inside. This scene also highlights the meaning behind the title “Drown”, not only does Len end up drowning in his own thoughts, and his own anger, but he feels as though he has no other option than to drown himself and escape it all. Understanding the difficult position Len was in made me realize that many bullies, like Len, are suffering from extensive pain and feel they have no other way of release than to hurt those around them, although this does not justify the bullying. This end scene was intense and I think it effectively portrayed the constant battle that so many LGBTQ individuals face, both internally and socially, being entrenched in society’s gender norms. For Len if he were to give up his hegemonic masculinities and come to terms with his homosexuality and the fact that he doesn’t fit within the gender binaries, he would have trouble viewing himself as a ‘man’, which is a debate many others face too.

Overall, I enjoyed attending this Film Festival, I had never heard of such a thing before and the environment in which it was held was welcoming, I would also highly suggest watching this movie if you want to understand from a visual and emotional perspective the difficulties many gay individuals face. I believe that for me some scenes were difficult to watch or wrap my head around, simply because we do not usually see these forms of verbal, physical and mental abuse in society or media, they are often kept hidden, even when this topic is so prevalent in society today and needs to be dealt with. I think there needs to be more movies like “Drown” in mainstream media which don’t exclude the LGBTQ community and do not sugar coat the dangerous violence and isolation that many individuals face.

The film was emotional and the director gave the viewer lots of opportunity to use their own interpretation and imagination when it came to certain scenes, which I thought was very interesting. “Drown” was effective in getting the message across that so many individuals suffer from isolation and violent bullying for not fitting in with societal norms and some people, like Len, simply end up committing suicide because they do not have the support to express their true sexuality. I believe that everyone should have the right to feel safe and comfortable to express their true identity within society, without having to feel terrified or vulnerable like Len and Phil did.

By: doglover1