Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Susan Stryker Said...

Susan Stryker is a well known transsexual activist in San Francisco and is one of the most vocal on the Frameline decision. Stryker has both supported the Frameline decision to pull The Gendercator , that Frameline was not an appropriate venue , and also believed it was important to screen it. This letter appeared in Left in San Francisco.

  1. Susan Stryker Says:

    "I obtained a copy of the film, viewed it, and corresponded with Catherine Crouch before making any comment.

    I decided to support this petition because Frameline, as an LGBT inclusive organization, is not the appropriate venue for this sort of work. The film expresses a long-familiar anti-transgender polemic: the idea that transsexuals are anti-gay, anti-feminist political reactionaries who collude with repressive social and cultural power; furthermore, that transsexuals are complicit in the non-consensual bodily violation of women.

    The ideas in the film echo the rhetoric of Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire (1979), which goes so far as to claim that Nazis invented transsexual surgery, that transsexuals are agents of a patriarchal conspiracy to replace biologically female women, to accuse all transsexuals of being rapists (because they represent an “unwanted penetration” of women’s space), and to argue in a eugenic fashion that transsexuals should be “morally mandated out of existence.”

    Raymond’s book, and the film, engage in the paranoid fantasy that what transsexuals do to their own bodies is somehow a threat to the bodies of nontranssexual women, that the very existence of transsexuals will somehow “force” a nontranssexual woman to have her body violated through some sort of compulsory and unwanted transformation–it’s the same structure of fantasy that imagines that all black men want to rape white women, that gays are predatory pedophiles, that communists are secretly infiltrating our government, that terrorists are swarming across our borders, that drug pushers are constantly trying to hook our kids, and so on ad nauseum. The film projects fear onto an “alien other” and then condemns that other for reflecting back that fear to the person who has projected it there in the first place.

    The director’s comments on the website betray a profound ignorance of the on-going, sophisticated conversations among feminist, queer, and trans activists and scholars about medicalization, pathologization, body modification, and other related issues–and frankly, for that matter, about misogyny and sexism within transgender communities and discourse. Her remarks suggest that she assumes she’s knows what best for other people, and that people who have made different choices than her, or felt different needs, or found other ways to be happy, self-fulfilled, productive members of society, are “distorted.” Sadly, that’s a move that liberal feminism has made many times, and it has only and always served to reinforce the privilege of the most advantaged populations of women, and to extend the repressive apparatus of sovereign power to the detriment of those on the margins. I have no qualms about working as actively as possible against such forms of feminism, and refuse to let such forms of feminism claim to represent feminism in its totality.

    But to return to the matter at hand, I personally think that sponsoring a “special screening” of Gendercator in San Francisco, perhaps sponsored by Frameline as part of its public process for dealing with the controversy, contextualized by a moderated panel discussion and presentations on the history of the issues involved, would provide an excellent opportunity to advance discussion on this matter. I guarantee, however, that any discussion in San Francisco would not be the one the filmmaker seems to think she would instigate. She would not be bringing the truth to poor confused transsexuals who would suddenly say, “Gee, it never dawned on me that I was embodying a distorted cultural norm.” She would be further mobilizing an already highly articulate, politically engaged, progressive community of queer/trans people to hold a homocentric GLB(T) to higher standards of accountability on trans issues, and to further isolate an increasingly isolated strand of anti-transsexual lesbian feminism.

    For that reason, while I support Frameline’s decision to pull the film as inappropriate for their mission, I truly regret that the film will not be shown. I hope it finds another venue where it will be subjected to the rigorous critique it so richly deserves.

    Susan Stryker

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