Appropriation: Dehumanization and Violence

Upon reading the article “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses” (Âpihtawikosisân, 2012), it becomes apparent that cultural appropriation is an issue that needs to be addressed. Though before we can reflect and self-analyze for appropriative behaviour, we need to understand what cultural appropriation is. Cultural appropriation is an extension of centuries of racism, genocide and oppression through which a superior culture marginalizes an inferior culture to exploit for their own benefit. This is usually through the means of taking religious, sacred and cultural symbols (GNDS Lecture, March 9, 2015).

The cultural appropriation of the Indigenous peoples of Canada has been an ongoing source of systemic colonialism and oppression that has directly led to the dehumanization of Native peoples and violence towards Aboriginal women.

The main argument for the innocence or nihility of cultural appropriation is rooted in the idea that all races are now equal and that racism no longer exists, which is very untrue. As of right now in Canada, there cannot be equal distribution and taking of cultural symbols and ideas because of the systemic racism still directed towards our Indigenous peoples. The appropriation of the Indigenous peoples is particularly disturbing due to the fact that during the initial colonization of the Native culture, the people were brutalized, ridiculed and persecuted for wearing or participating in the things that are now being appropriated from them (LaRocque, n.d.). When we appropriate the ceremonies, objects and traditions from the Indigenous culture, we remove and twist the original meanings. This twisting and contorting leads to a warped view of the culture with an ignorant interpretation of both the historical and current value placed into these objects. This reinforces and builds upon false stereotypical ideas and behaviours. When this happens, it creates a sort of mould that the culture has to fit into, and when they don’t fit into this shape they’re dehumanized, attacked and marginalized (“Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?”, n.d.).

One of the most pressing concerns in Canada right now for Indigenous peoples also happens to be some of the most evident aftermath of cultural appropriation and colonization. Looking at this with an intersectional point-of-view, Indigenous women are arguably the most affected, with them being 4.6% of the Canadian population and yet they constitute 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women (Powers, 2014). As mentioned previously, the appropriation of a culture leads to a misunderstanding of it, and when humans don’t understand something, we become violent and aggressive. Media portrayal of the Indigenous women of Canada (as we’ve seen in recent fashion trends, Disney films and even logos/labels (“Common Portrayals of Aboriginal Women”, n.d.)) leads to a fetishized view where these women are seen more as objects than as people. They’re seen as wild objects to be taken and civilized like pets. This dehumanization through appropriation manifests itself in all of the aforementioned statistics.

So, how can we appreciate a culture without appropriating? Since appropriation is such a large tool for colonization and the dehumanization of a culture, we can instead show our love in different ways than simply taking what we want; as said by Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public”; or to perhaps apply a derivative of this quote into the context of cultural appropriation: to bring justice to our country in the name of the Indigenous, we need to show our love in a more sensitive fashion. If you love the beauty of Indigenous culture it’s certainly ok to show that love, just educate yourself first. It’s also ok to appreciate their art and fashion by purchasing Indigenous made items, just so long as it isn’t for exploitative purposes (Âpihtawikosisân, 2012). To show your appreciation and admiration for the Indigenous culture in an appropriate manor is to take one step closer to bringing justice to the systemic racism and colonialism that trails behind cultural appropriation.

The appropriation of the Aboriginal culture in Canada has long been the agent of dehumanization of the culture and its women, feeding colonialism. It perpetuates stereotypes and creates ideas of the culture that are far from the truth, leading to great misunderstanding and violence towards the culture. This aggression and violence has shown itself in very real forms both in the past and the present, and one of the ways we can prevent it from reaching the future is to stop appropriating and start appreciating.

WORKS CITED

Âpihtawikosisân (2012). “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses”. âpihtawikosisân: Law, language, life: A Plains Cree speaking Métis woman in Montreal. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/

“Common Portrays of Aboriginal Women”. (n.d.). Media Smarts. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/aboriginal-people/common-portrayals-aboriginal-people&gt;

“Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?” (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://zinelibrary.info/files/culturalappropriationread.pdf&gt;

LaRocque, Emma. (n.d.). “Colonization and Racism”. Aboriginal Perspectives. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from <http://www3.nfb.ca/enclasse/doclens/visau/index.php?mode=theme&language=english&theme=30662&film=16933&excerpt=612109&submode=about&expmode=2&gt;

Powers, Elaine. “Health 101 Intro”. Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. September 8, 2014. HLTH101 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Cultural Appropriation.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 5 March 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Entertainment.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 12 January 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Reelout Queer film + Videofest Review: The Dog

The Dog is a documentary directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren in 2013, that follows the epic life story of John Wojtowicz. John attempted to rob a bank in 1972 in order to pay for his partner’s sex-reassignment surgery. The film follows John around as he shows us New York City as it was back in the 70’s, when being gay was an alternative, underground, and somewhat dangerous lifestyle.

The story itself was gripping on its own, however it is John’s lively and admittedly at times shocking commentary that keeps the audience laughing and fully engaged. John is a vibrant and exuberant character who says what he wants and does as he pleases. This is seen throughout the film as he reflects on his views of love, marriage, gender, race, sex, and sexuality. He is unapologetically himself, and whether he is abhorred or adored (it’s usually one of either end of the spectrum), he couldn’t care less. He begins by illustrating his journey of self discovery after enlisting in the army. It is here that he discovers his attraction to men, and engages in his first gay sexual experiences. This then causes him to become heavily involved in the gay activist movement once he returned home, and thus exposes him to what was then an underground subculture of sorts.

It is very clear form the beginning that Wojtowicz is our anti-hero. His commentary may be colourful and his views questionable, but we choose to overlook them because he entertains us, and seems to have a good heart deep down. He goes back and forth between seeing his sexual partners as mere objects, often using problematic and offensive language, and simultaneously lamenting that all he really desires is to be married and to find true love. His approach may be crass but his message remains pure, he has love in his heart and is desperate to give it to someone special.

As the film progresses, we start to realize that that “someone” happens to be many people. His wife Carmen and he got married early and had children. This would be his first of many wives over the course of John’s lifetime. After becoming more active within the gay community, John soon met Ernest, who would soon change her name to Elizabeth. Later, in jail, John would soon take another wife.

Elizabeth, at the time that she met John, still went by Ernest, however she dressed in drag often. John admitted to being attracted to her gender fluidity; being able to identify with both the male and female gender. However as their relationship developed, Ernest became more and more inclined towards their female side, and began identifying as transgender. John was aware of this, but once Elizabeth told him that she wanted to have the surgery, he was deeply upset. He initially could not see past his own binary thinking; seeing gender as strictly male and female. But after Ernest’s many suicide attempts, he realized that this was what was important to the person he loved, and therefore he would do anything to attain it.

In this way, we see John’s true nature. He truly cares for people and despite his own opinions and prejudices, will do anything to ensure their happiness and safety. When he finally does rob the bank, and the police arrive, his first request is for them to bring Ernest to him. It is unclear whether this is because he wants to say goodbye, or is hoping to escape with Ernest, but either way it is clear that Ernest is the most important thing to John.

What is also interesting about this scene is that John completely disregards, and in fact challenges the homophobic (prejudiced agains homosexuals) protestors and police officers outside the bank make towards him. He meets their threats with equal defiance and courage. This is very reflective of John’s character; at the time homosexuality, being attracted to someone of the same sex, was seen as morally wrong and something to be ashamed of. This is the exact opposite of what John is, he is proud of who he is and could care less about what anyone thinks. In response to being called a gay slur, he responds with “Yes, I am” and threatens to fight the accuser. He may not always be the most politically correct, but he stood up for what he believed in and did not discriminate. It is also suggested later in the film that Wojtowicz may have been bisexual, being attracted to members of both sexes, but that is never confirmed.

Overall the movie itself was incredibly well shot and did a good job of telling what was an astonishing and gripping story. It was obvious that everyone in the theatre was glued to the screen to find out what happened next. John himself was a complex and somewhat likeable character, sort of like the drunk, obnoxious uncle who embarrasses everyone at Thanksgiving but everyone still manages to laugh about it after. I would definitely recommend the film and will probably watch it again.

Film Review: “The Way He Looks”

The humble and engaging film, “The Way He Looks” is one that leaves the audience with a new perspective and awareness towards each character. Ghilherme Lobo (Leonardo) has appeared in films such as Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (2010) and Má Adolescência that is announced to release in 2016. This film is the classic modern love story with a twist everyone will enjoy and be infatuated by. Leonardo is a blind teenager seeking independence and in hope of love, as he struggles through high school humiliated. His friendship with Giovanna played by Tess Amorim allows Leonardo to see what she sees; understanding that their friendship is uncommon but the bond they share between the two of them is remarkable. The movie is simply about blind love. Leonardo becomes friends with a new student and instantly falls in love with Gabriel, unknowing at this point what Gabriel’s feelings are towards him. This film is unordinary as it features a queer love coming of age story, having a wonderful way of displaying what teenagers go through dealing with these emotions and experiences in their daily life. Leo does not want his disability to prevent others form treating him differently and unusual. The film is portrayed with extreme care and tenderness, along with a sense of insight on Leo that once the first kiss happens it has the viewers at surprise yet entirely waiting on the special moment. Ribeiro demonstrates how young love sparks into an inspirational and developing time in ones life. Ghilherme Lobo who plays Leo possesses strength and courage of Fabio Audi who play’s Gabriel is creatively shown as this typical love story out folds. During the final scenes in Leo’s bedroom are a romantic portrayal of average everyday young couple first experiences together; anxious, nervous, yet eager. Gabriel doesn’t hold back as he mentions the fact he remembers their first kiss, and is interested in experiencing a more serious connection with that person. As Leo begins to comprehend that Gabriel is speaking about himself it initiates the two not holding back, quickly expressing their feelings out loud. This film is a romance about seeking love, expressing it in the most sophisticated yet sensational experience.

The most alluring scene that stands out in my mind is when Leo was searching for Gabriel and he stumbles upon him swimming and flirting with Katrina. This strikes to Leo’s head making him jealous and hurt, forcing him to calm himself by walking away. Soon after, Giovanna is surprised and approaches Leo as he then reveals his new feelings towards Gabriel. Giovanna reacts by saying “she never knew Leo like that” leaving her to walk away. Giovanna then finds Leo once again, sits down and hugs him. This scene strikes as one of the most important because it is when Leo has the courage to come out to his best friend. Having this new information makes Giovanna and Leo’s friendship stronger than it was ever before.

Leo has a challenge of being blind and he is unable to participate in some everyday activities such as shaving which can be seen as Hegemony Masculinity. Being a man and having a social norm of masculinity set by society, a common daily job is to shave, but he is incapable to complete this task without his father’s guidance. Leo never expressed his sexual attraction towards anyone prior to Gabriel. Continuously through out the film Leo was teased about different judgments others had towards his disability, but Sex-Role Learning can be seen as one of the tormenters, intimidate Leo as they yell out slangs suggesting that he should be walking Giovanna home as the male figure would be seen to do instead of him needing her help to get home. Assuming that Leo might have been into her, Giovanna did not consider him as possibly homosexual until he came out to her while camping, which can be seen as Compulsory Heterosexuality. This film illustrates Homophobia from Leo’s classmates regularly calling out names and bullying, using the phrase “Is that your new boyfriend”. Leo’s frustration and tolerance towards his peers came to an end as he clutched Gabriel’s hand in response to the intimidators, which in turn silenced them.

The festival taken place on the weekends were excellent experience for everyone who went, as it was a chance to see movies that would not be regularly broadcasted in the big screen or advertised on television. Students wouldn’t regularly attend movies like this so for this festival to take place it allowed a new sense of knowledge and appreciation through recommendation of this course. The Grand Theatre and Downtown Kingston has a wonderful layout and the location of the festival made it more enjoyable for the students. I think this festival will hopefully encourage students to respect and value the culture and social aspects we currently live in. Overall the festival had a great turn out and was well organized, it was a very good success.

FILM REVIEW

The Circle (2014)

 

Directed by: Stefan Haupt

A review by: chagheill101

An intriguing mixture of both classic narrative and documentary, The Circle recounts the true story of Ernst Ostertag (Matthias Hungerbühler) and Robi Rapp (Sven Schelker) in 1958 Zurich, Switzerland. Ernst, a soon to be teacher, falls deeply in love with Robi, a well-known transvestite entertainer, and becomes a subscriber to an empowering, homoerotic magazine. The magazine, titled ‘The Circle’, soon consumes Ernst with his dedication as he experiences the slow demise of its publication. This film depicts the victories and the backsets of the homosexual community at this time in history. With the current day, real-life protagonists commenting on their journey, The Circle clearly demonstrates the oppression and triumphs of homosexuals’ rights in Zurich.

Though primarily a love story, this film expanded to elaborate on larger, external pressures of being a homosexual at this time in history. In a world of compulsory heterosexuality (GNDS125 Lecture, January 26, 2015), where the accepted norm was for people to be attracted to those of the opposite sex, the viewer is shown the illegalization of homosexual activity in Zurich. Haupt was successful in manifesting a recreation of the events in such a way that the viewer was compelled to empathize for the protagonists, making this film extremely powerful for any audience regardless of their personal sexualities. The portrayal of Robi obliterated any ideas of gender polarization (GNDS125 Lecture, January 22, 2015), (the idea or presumption that males and females are complete opposites and have no similar qualities) through his moonlighting career as a cabaret singer, commanding his own sexuality and stereotypical feminine qualities.

An interestingly accurate aspect of this film was the Queer-cripping (GNDS125 Lecture, February 2, 2015) of the Head Master, Max (Peter Jecklin). Queer-cripping is the idea that people who are homosexual are seen as less able, and less qualified than those who are “normal” or heterosexual. Upon his outing and suicide to his peers and coworkers, a sort of callous response is shown. Immediate judgments of his position at the school were thrown, and the staff unanimously indicated a disapproval of his contributions, all because of his sexual orientation. This darker portion of the film illustrates the stigma (GNDS125 Lecture, February 2, 2015), the mark of disgust and disgrace associated with homosexual people in the 1950’s to 1960’s, some of which we still see in today’s society; again proving how relevant this story is even in 2015.

Rape culture and sexual violence play heavy roles throughout the retelling, the murder of two homosexual members of ‘The Circle’ kick-start the public’s distaste in the previously accepted culture. A male prostitute in Zurich during the year 1960 had been paid for sexual activities, and then beat the men who had purchased the sexual services with a broken glass bottle. This portion of the film was the most compelling and relevant to the film’s overall importance. When the prostitute was taken to court for the two murders, they were ruled not guilty, solely because the jury had been told that the murderer was corrupted by the gay men, and seduced by the devil into doing evil things. In essence, this film captures the classic prejudice towards the homosexual minority, notably similar to the tale of prejudice towards Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (Lee, 1960). Both Tom Robinson and the murdered homosexual men were associated with a discriminated minority, and were blamed for crimes they did not commit, only because of their race/sexuality. Along with the lack of prosecution of the guilty, extreme police brutality towards the homosexual community was shown continuing on into the late 1960’s accompanied by out-bursting riots.

In 2015, this film is applicable in almost every way. With rape culture and sexual violence still proceeding as a major issue all over the world, as well as prejudice towards the homosexual community. This film acts as educational and informative, while still providing an entertaining 102 minutes. Haupt takes the audience by surprise and gives a contrasting yet consistent view of the oppression, although the reoccurring flash-forwards to the present day Robi and Ernst act as a block, preventing the film from reaching its full potential to keep the viewer locked into a tensile plot.

The only true downside to this film is its androcentric (GNDS125 Lecture, January 26, 2015) plot. The entirety of this film focuses on the male homosexual experience of the oppression, with minimal to no female inclusion. With this being the only non-progressive aspect, this movie is near perfect in establishing and demonstrating the early homophobia in twentieth century Europe.

The Reelout Film Festival itself was yet another bonus to the viewing of this piece. With a welcoming atmosphere, and an audience of every demographic, it was clear that this relatively low-key event was successful in screening LGBTQ friendly films. The festival was complete with local filmmakers’ work, as well as local sexual health workers and enthusiasts to discuss their thoughts and feelings about The Circle. The environment was conducive to understanding and respectful of the history behind the film, which was well received by all in the audience. Overall, this festival was a positive experience, and definitely a must-attend to all in the future.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins, 1960. Print.

The Circle. Dir. Stefan Haupt. 2014. Film.

Tolmie, Jane. “Ads, Images, Visual Culture.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 26
January 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Agency, Coincidence, Choice.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 2
February 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Tolmie, Jane. “Gender Socialization.” Queen’s University. Kingston, ON. 22 January 2015. GNDS125 Lecture.

Film Review: “Regarding Susan Sontag”

This film, as directed by Nancy Kates, provides in depth recall on Susan Sontag’s life. The film follows Sontag’s life and registers her personal life events on a timeline as defined by one of Sontag’s professional accolades. This film touches upon much more than just what she had achieved professionally. In fact, “Regarding Susan Sontag” sheds light more on her intricate personal life, which was occurring parallel to her professional life.

To say that this film is a film made to highlight Susan Sontag’s professional achievements would be false. Nancy Kates focuses the film much more on Sontag’s life events and merely uses her academic achievements as a bookmarker on the timeline that is her life. With that being said, Nancy Kates does divulge somewhat into Sontag’s literary career. Kates does so by giving insight into Sontag’s work with the use of interviews from friends, family and academic piers. However, Kates often does so with heavy focus and reference to Sontag’s closeted bisexuality.

It becomes immediately apparent that Nancy Kates was more interested in Susan Sontag as an influential personality and political figure as opposed to a writer. Kates’ focus on Sontag’s sexuality is very interesting given sexual binaries of her era. The sexual scripts of her era, especially when she was first attending Berkeley University, frowned upon sexual promiscuity with the same sex. That being said, Kates is perfectly able to show that despite these scripts and binaries Sontag was still able to pursue personal and professional achievements.

As the film progresses Kates brings to light how Sontag refused to come out of the closet, despite being pressured to by the gay community to do so.  Kates even mentions in the film a quote from Sontag in which Sontag confesses that she feels guilty for being queer (Kates, “Regarding Susan Sontag”). Kates seems to have used this quote to indirectly describe the compulsory heterosexuality that Sontag may have been experiencing both professionally and personally.

The narrative that is really presented throughout this film is that Sontag ran against binary thinking and conventional power structures. She did this to live a life that she wanted to live as well as achieve what she wanted to achieve.

To present this movie Nancy Kates embedded the use of interview footage of Susan Sontag. This footage is placed to follow accordingly with recorded interview footage of Sontag’s friends, family and piers. Each point on the timeline is connected by a narrator that often reads quotes from Sontag that usher in the new point on the timeline.

A scene that greatly stood out to me is where Sontag is quoted as saying “I am just becoming aware, of how guilty I feel being gay” (Kates, “Regarding Susan Sontag”). This stood out to me because it deals greatly with what we have discussed in class and our tutorials. Specifically the oppression constructed by cultural hegemony that is faced by those that do not abide by traditional sexual orientation. As touched upon in class the compulsory heterosexuality of society can really negatively affect those that are not heterosexual and cause individuals to not be happy with who they are. Nancy Kates presents Sontag as a strong individual who seems very comfortable with who she is. This speaks to how powerful oppression is on an individual’s mental state. This only reaffirms the fact that as a society we must break down the cultural hegemonic binary thinking that continues to instill oppression.

Attending this film seemed no different to me than when I view blockbuster films. The crowd seemed excited and no different than a crowd that views any other movie on any other day. While this may not seem like much, I believe that this is very uplifting. Typically in blockbuster movies there is a plethora of sexist undertones, intersectional interactions, racially stereotypical reinforcements and plenty of other underlying oppressive conduct. However, the films in this festival are made without these oppressive undertones and without them the audience acted no different. This proves that films do not need oppressive undertones to provide ticket sales. Films are a large part of popular culture. I believe that by eliminating sexist undertones, intersectional interactions, racially stereotypical reinforcements as well as other forms of oppressive conduct, we could greatly reduce the oppressive ideologies taught by popular culture.

Works Cited

Regarding Susan Sontag. Perf. Noël Burch, Lucinda Childs, Patricia Clarkson, Mark Danner, Nadine Gordimer. HBO Documentary Films, 2014. Film.