Gender, Race, and Class
For my final project I teamed up with Emily, Cat, Jake, and Mike. Together we experimented with how different genders, races, and classes are viewed in New York City. Emily was a butch Latina, Cat our host, Jake a homeless man, Mike a transvestite, and myself a wealthy brat. “…American society is now imposing a Eurocentric, Christian, heterosexual male ethos on all of us in order to maintain a uniquely American identity against the incursion of other…gays, coloreds, and practitioners of outlaw sexuality into its inner sanctum.” This is a quote from Adrian Piper’s piece in The Triple Negation of the Colored Women Artists. I thought this related to our project considering this is everything they want us not to be. Her story proves the suffering and pain of black women throughout history. It shows their strength and power throughout history, defying the principles of freedom and the truth of the American people.
We each took on these roles to see what kinds of reactions and rises we could get out of people. Some created more than others, but overall we each got to experience the life a person outside of our own for a day. Emily’s transformation was great. She made her skin completely orange, slicked her hair back, and put on baggy clothes as a lesbian Latina woman. She went to a store in Times Square to buy an outfit for her “boo”. Jake poses as a homeless man behind a Sephora with a sign and a blanket. Though he gets no money, he gets plenty of stares. Its definitely different seeing someone so young out on the streets asking for help. “Homelesssness is as old as the first permanent settlement. The wandering stranger was viewed with suspicion, if not hostility, and was often treated harshly. After centuries of assisting, denying, and rejecting the needs of the homeless, we are still searching for solutions to the problem.” This quote from an article by Leland Axelson and Paula Dail pretty much describes how Jake was treated. No one wants anything to do with the homeless. We using see them as dirty and bothersome. Though for some reason it is usually not frowned upon, there needs to be a change. We cannot have people as young as Jake living homeless on the street. No matter what gender, race, or class everyone deserves a chance to get up on their feet.
Mike the train, dressed in my clothes, got the most reactions out of all of us. He was definitely not one to miss. The pink fur vest and floral blouse stood out like no other. The makeup was so well done it made you think about what gender he really was. A quote by Pauline Greenhill reminded me a little of this. “I add to this series of interpretations the suggestion that cross-dressing ballads express and embody the possibility of same-sex attraction and of nonheterosexual activity. They provide historical examples of the possibility of breaking away from compulsory heterosexuality—or at least conceiving of doing so—which provides a counterpoint to analyses by those who focus upon the performativity of sex, gender, and sexuality. They also provide potentially current examples for gender bending and queer expression.” She basically explains cross-dressing as a form of expression. It is how one becomes open and free to be who they are. We see a lot of that in New York, and though they are bound to get stares, it is what they identify as and that’s something everyone should accept.
And then there was my role, which by definition doesn’t seem too hard at all, but it really was. I was made to play an obnoxious rich girl with money problems in the middle of Times Square. I definitely had some trouble with this role. Either I wasn’t loud enough or I was facing the wrong direction to the people. The role made me nervous and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to stand in the middle of Times Square screaming to my dad about money; that’s just embarrassing. Doing this project put me outside my comfort zone, but it also made me realize how easily we judge and view other people. Each and every one of us was viewed by the crowd as weird or not normal. We definitely made people uncomfortable. That’s what we were trying to accomplish. The odds are that we would’ve had the same reaction if we saw this happening in the street. Even in such a diverse and culturally accepting place like New York, people will judge.
“Neither a Man nor a Maid”: Sexualities and Gendered Meanings in Cross-Dressing Ballads
The Journal of American Folklore , Vol. 108, No. 428 (Spring, 1995), pp. 156-177
Published by: American Folklore Society
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/541377
K, Aren. “Adrian Piper.” Raisin in the Sun. N.p., 30 May 2006. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.
The Changing Character of Homelessness in the United States
Leland J. Axelson and Paula W. Dail
Family Relations , Vol. 37, No. 4, The Contemporary Family: Consequences of Change (Oct., 1988), pp. 463-469
Published by: National Council on Family Relations
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/584121