For this project we took to the streets in Times Square to how people react to us being different. We wanted to see how people judge those who are “out of the norm.” Jake: Homeless man, Emily: Latino Lesbian, Mike: Transgendered Male, Camilla: Spoiled Rich Girl, Caterina: was our Host. We originally wanted to move around and film in both upper and lower class neighborhoods but we chose to stay in one place to save time and money. We thought that Times Square would be the best place to film because there are always hoards of people roaming around. Mike was the one that got the most reactions. We dressed Mike in Camilla’s clothing, straightened his hair and did his makeup. Most people didn’t know whether he was a boy or a girl and the majority of them just laughed. He was a cross dresser just like the men in Paris is Burning. Some of the best reactions we couldn’t even capture on film. I spent time alone with Mike as we ventured to find a restroom. It was difficult understanding why people react to those who are different then them. Poor Mike was bashed left and right. People couldn’t help but stare and judge him. I felt uncomfortable for him and I wasn’t the one being judged. Old men, little kids, teenagers, everyone that passed his either blatantly stared or tried averting their eyes to not be rude. Either way the majority of them had something to say. I wasn’t there when Jake was doing his portion because I was off with Mike but when we were on the train back to school Jake sprawled out and covered himself with a blanket. The guy across from him just laughed and stared. No one really pays attention to homeless people anymore. They are normally just ignored. Camilla’s character was one of the hardest ones to get reactions about. We needed her to yell on the phone in a crowd and the louder she got and the more obnoxious she got the more reactions we caught on film. My favorite clip of Camilla’s portion was the brunet looking Camilla up and down with the snobbiest look on her face. Camilla’s character isn’t as obvious for being different but it worked out in the end. We still got reactions out of people.
I had to touch upon the issues of race and sexuality. I was a Latino Lesbian who went shopping for my girl friend. Walking on the street or riding on the subway I didn’t get any reactions from people because I wasn’t dressed as “in your face” as Mike was. I tried getting the swag on and I put guy clothes on, like Adrian Piper. It was hard getting reactions out of people because yeah my skin is a different color but no one would know that unless they saw me before my transformation. The only way I could get a reaction out of anyone is if I actually went up and talked to them. It was hard for me to stretch out of my comfort zone both as a different race as well have having a different sexual preference. Over all I really enjoyed my experience making this video and I loved bonding with my group
Paris is Burning Livingston, Jennie, Pepper Labeija, Kim Pendavis, Freddie Pendavis, Dorian Corey, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja, and Laurent O. St. Paris Is Burning. United States: Fox Lorber Home Video, 1992.
Adrian Piper: Bowles, John P. Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment. Durham [NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Internet resource.
Ethnicity and Sexuality: Joane, Nagel:Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26, (2000), pp. 107-133:Published by: Annual Reviews
Taking the abnormal to the streets too see people judge us…Enjoy!!
I actually enjoyed reading this article on Felix Gonzales-Torres and how he chose to spread his views and knowledge on AIDs. We have all heard about it and we know about it but this experiment of having people take pieces of candy to symbolize the person disappearing due to the disease really makes the audience stop and really think about it. To me I found it interesting that after a hundred years his artwork will cease to exist and people will only hear or read about it. This is a daring way to have people be a part of his artwork. Each person plays a role in where and when the candy goes. It was ironic that Felix Gonzales-Torres chose something so sweet as candy to portray something so horrible as AIDs. He spoke out against AIDs and what it has done to the gay society. At my work we talk about witch hunts and give examples of other things in history that are similar to witch hunts by using a formula Fear + Trigger = Scapegoat and one of our examples is the AIDs epidemic in the 80’s. When I explain this during my tour I watch peoples reactions and they always seem very uncomfortable because it still is something that is around in our society and people are always afraid of infection. Even though AIDs isn’t as in our face as it was in the 80’s and 90’s we still should spread awareness and people should really learn about what Felix Gonzales-Torres has shown for AIDs.
Ps1 was an interesting museum. From eating poop, to a girl in a bath full of Poland springs water to tinfoil church shrines, this museum had a wide range of artwork. I do have to say that my two favorite parts of this field trip happened outside the actual museum. First, going to the Graffiti yard was pretty much breath taking. It is mind blowing to me how people can create such amazing things with paint from a spray can. I loved all the bright colors and graphic designs and how nothing was meant to flow together but it all seemed to fit perfectly. My second favorite part was our lunch together in the diner. This has really shown what a tight knit group we have become and I’m really going to miss our class time. I mean we were forced to feel comfortable around each other because of the subject matter we discuss but I feel like we have all become a cute group of friends. Now don’t get me wrong, I did actually enjoy the museum. I liked the glittery madness of rats, icons, and the occasional naked man. There was so much to look at and it made me want to create something with glitter. There was also another exhibit that we sat a watched about a compliment bathtub. This movie was about these two people inviting attractive women to take a bath with either tap water or bottled water. If they said bottled it would take 60 fairly large jugs of Poland springs water to halfway fill the tub. The two people would then sit around the tub and talk to the women and awkwardly compliment them. It made me feel uncomfortable for those poor women. Then of course, our final piece of art…Poop. Enough said. I really have enjoyed these field trips and I’ll miss them…just not the poop.
During this passage they talked about different communities and how the Urban Bush Women bring communities together to make the world a better place. With their company they travel to different neighborhoods and towns to perform and spread their art. Each performance holds a different message that could help and bond the community. They even help children at the YMCA. I do agree with Putnam when he said that in 2000 people were disconnecting from communities because the strong urge to become individuals. He also had a good point that I thought was interesting, the concept of “nesting”. He brought up how here in the United States we have become a stronger community due to 9/11. All over America people had to come together and help each other out. We all became stronger as a community because there was a nation wide loss. Even in Chicago they formed a community around the book To Kill A Mockingbird. People performed plays around the book, and held discussion groups all around Chicago. People wanted to belong to something and this experiment allowed people to feel accepted. This experiment is also similar to things the Urban Bush women did in their Community Engagement Projects. They held workshops to engage communities and neighborhoods in popular-culture based activities. The Urban Bush Women were able to help the community understand their culture through dance. I think this is great because people really need to come back to their roots and stay close with family and culture.
I loved watching the video “Paris is Burning”. I thought it was so entertaining and interesting. You really see both sides of “balls” and dressing in drag. As one of my classmates Olivia Hu has said to me, “although drag culture seems glamorous, energetic and fun, it is born from the oppression of a minority. It is a release for those who are unsafe to be free.” Being in a ball was a way for men and women to express themselves through movement and clothes. They did their hair and make up and glammed themselves for the runway. This was a way for them to be free and feel pretty. You see the glitz and glamor in their clothes and makeup and how they move their bodies, but then you see the darker side of it. One of the drag queens, Venus Xtravaganza, looked very much like a woman. The only difference was her male reproductive parts. She was a hooker to pay the bills and to pay for balls, but that came with some serious risks. Most women that sell their bodies are in danger of men becoming violent; but when you aren’t what you seem it can become deadly. She talked about how one man realized she was a man and pulled a gun out and threatened her with it. She had to jump out of the window to save her life. Later on in the film we find out that she was brutally murdered in a scenario just like that. Being a drag queen comes with its risks, but these men and women are willing to take those risks to feel accepted in the ball society.
Each person gives their own story about who they are and how they came to dress in drag. I particularly liked the quote from the beginning of the movie: “My dad said you have 3 strikes against you in this world. Every black man has 2, that they’re just black and that they are male. But you’re black and you’re male and you’re gay you’re going to have a hard fucking time. If you’re going to do this you’re going to have to be stronger then you’ve ever imagined.” I really did see the strength in everyone that shared their story. Not all of them were black but they each had to fight to be who they wanted to be. Some hid their real identities from their parents and the community to be accepted. Others ran from their homes and lived with the house mothers, the main drag queens that run each ball. This sometimes caused problems because although they felt safer than they would have at home many got into using drugs and working on the streets to support themselves.
I could also see how people treated men who dressed in drag. Just walking down the streets, they were judged for dressing like women. There is one quote in particular that showed how men in drag feel on the streets when they are being judged. “When you marry a woman you can do anything. You can almost have sex on the streets if you want to. The most somebody will say is ‘hey get a hump for me!’ But when you’re gay you monitor everything you do. You monitor how you look, how you dress, how you talk, how you act. Do they see me? What do they think of me?” Even through all the judgment they keep doing drag because it is what they love to do.
On television today, beauty contests are broadcasted for the world to see and judge. Not only are there the Miss United States pageants but also the widely controversial television show Toddlers and Tiaras. To participate in these pageants, the girls need to look a certain way that looks “natural” to the judges, but to do so you need to have the finest clothes, hair and makeup. The little girls go through a total makeover costing their parents thousand of dollars for a little plastic crown. Some girls, like the drag queens, love it because it gives them self-confidence and they make friends in the pageant scene. However, others don’t enjoy it but are forced to participate. Either way, like the balls, it is an expensive hobby that causes some parents to take up extra or odd jobs. They make sacrifices for the competitiveness and the need to be accepted in the pageant community, just like the drag queens need to feel accepted into the ball community. They are there to perform and being the best they can be. If that means that little children dress like teenagers, or men dress like women then so be it if it makes them happy. So I will leave with this final quote that was said in the movie, that I feel sums up the main ideas and why people participate in the balls. “Its not just the winning, it’s the giving too. I feel like I give a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people that go to balls. And they enjoy to see it, and I enjoy to walk for them”
featuring Lil’ Kim and Eve…Powerhouses!!