Monthly Archives: May 2008

Lesbian, Queer, Feminist Film Festival Worldwide

This site is the most comprehensive list I’ve found containing links and information about film festivals specializing in and featuring Lesbian, Queer, Feminist, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender  themes.

This space can be used for promoting individual films and festivals, allowing for opinions, questions, critiques, etc.


Women in Lesotho and the (Western) Construstion of Homophobia

The following passages have been pulled from the research of Kendall, titled “Women in Lesotho and the (Western) Construction of Homophobia” which was published in the anthology, female desires

“My search for lesbians in Lesotho began in 1992, when I arrived in that small, impoverished African country and went looking for my own kind. That was before the president of nearby Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, himself mission-educated, declared moral war on homosexuality and insisted that homosexuality was a ‘Western’ phenomenon imported into Africa by the colonists. When I left Lesotho two and a half years later, I had not found a single Mosotho who identified herself as a lesbian. However, I had found widespread, apparently normative erotic relationships among the Basotho women I knew, in conjunction with the absence of a concept of this behavior as ‘sexual’ or as something that might have a name. I learned not to look for unconventionally or visible performance of sex role rejection as indicators of ‘queerness.’ Most Basotho women grow up in environments where it is impossible for them to learn about, purchase, or display symbols of gay visibility, where passionate relationships between women are as conventional as (heterosexual) marriage, and where women who love women usually perform also the roles of conventional wives and mothers. I have had to look again at how females express themselves, how privilege and lesbianism intersect (or do not), and whether what women have together- in Lesotho or anywhere else- should be called ‘sex’ at all. I have concluded that love between women is as native to southern Africa as the soil itself, but that homophobia, like Mugabe’s Christianity, is a Western import.”  (157)

“My attempts to ‘come out’ to rural women and domestic workers were laughable; they could not understand what I was talking about, and if I persisted they only shook their heads in puzzlement. Despite this, I had some long conversations with Basotho women, especially older university students and domestic workers, who formed my social cohort in Lesotho and who trusted me enough to describe their encounters in as much detail as I requested. From these I learned of fairly common instances of tribadism, or rubbing, fondling, and cunnilingus between Basotho women, with and without digital penetration. This they initially described as ‘loving each other,’ ‘staying together nicely,’ ‘holding each other,’ or ‘having a nice time together.’ But not as having sex. No koai, no sex.”
“Lillian Faderman’s observation that ‘A narrower interpretation of what constitutes eroticism permitted a broader expression of erotic behavior [in the eighteenth century], since it was not considered inconsistent with virtue’ makes sense here. If these long, sweet Basotho women’s kisses or incidences of genital contact were defined as ‘sexual’ in Lesotho, they could be subject to censure both by outside observers who seem to disapprove of sex generally (nuns, visiting teachers, traveling social workers) or by the very women who enjoy them but seek to be morally upright and to do the right thing.”
“Since sex outside of marriage in Roman Catholic terms is i sin, then it is fortunate for women in this mostly Catholic country that what women do in Lesotho cannot possibly be sexual. No koai, no sex means that women’s way of expressing love, lust, passion, or joy in each other are neither immoral nor suspect.” (166-67)

“Nthunya (a woman from Lesotho) describes how the woman she calls ‘M’alineo chose her as her motsoalle (special friend) with a kiss. Nthunya writes: “Its like when a man chooses you as his wife, except when a man chooses, its because he wants to share blankets with you. The woman chooses you the same way, but she wants love only. When a woman loves another woman, you see, she can love with her whole heart.”
“Nthunya describes the process of their relationship, the desire that characterized it, the kisses they shared, their hand-holding in church, their meetings at the local cafe. And she describes two ritual feasts observed by them and their husbands, recognizing their relationship. These feasts, held one year apart, involved ritual presentation and slaughter of sheep as well as eating, drinking, dancing, singing, exchanges of gifts, and general merriment and validation of the commitment hey made to each other by all the people they knew. ‘It was like a wedding,’ Nthunya writes. ” (167)

“The classical exchange in this debate pits a realist/essentialist, who believes that lesbians have existed in most cultures and throughout history, against a normative/social constructionist, who believes that lesbians only appear where and when there is the socially constructed concept, ‘lesbian.’ What the situation in Lesotho suggests is that women can and do develop strong affectional and erotic ties with other women in a culture where there is no concept or social construction ‘lesbian’ and where there is no concept of erotic exchanges among women being ‘sexual’ at all. Ant yet, partly because of the ‘no concept’ issue and in part because women have difficulty supporting themselves in Lesotho, there has been no lesbian lifestyle option available to Basotho women. Lesbian or lesbianlike behavior has been commonplace, conventional, but it has not been viewed as ‘sexual’ or as an alternative to heterosexual marriage, which is both a sexual and economic part of culture.” (171-72)

“Whats Identity Got to Do with It?” Rethinking Identity in Light of the Mati Work

Th following has been pulled from Gloria Wekker’s piece, “Whats Identity Got to Do With It?”, published in the anthology, female desires.

“In the course of this century, several studies-mostly by men, occasionally by white women- have dealt with the ‘unusual relationships between women.’ In the course of my sexually coming-of-age in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, during the seventies, I noticed that there were at least two models available to me on how to be a woman who loved other women. There was a dominant model, mostly engaged in by white, middle-class women, in which the rhetoric of ‘political choice,’ feminist chauvinism , conformity between partners along a number of dimensions , including socioeconomic status and age, and predominantly childlessness, played central parts. And there was a subjugated model, of which I discerned merely the contours at the time but which I learned later learned to identify as the mati work.”(121)

“My periodically returning structural malaise in applying Western sexual labels (hetero-, homo-, and bisexuality) to myself while failing to ‘identify’ with them was a major impetus to engage in this particular research.. in feminist research ‘the problem’ frequently is a blend of intellectual question and personal trouble.”

“Although it is, of course, impossible to obtain reliable qualitative data on the occurrence of the mati work in Paramaribo in the past or today, it is clear for those who have eyes to see (the symbolic behaviors) and ears to hear (the powerful metaphorical language mati speak to each other) that it is widespread in the working class. I have suggested that three out of four working class Creole women will be engaged in it at some point in their lives. There is no specific stigma attatched to mati work in a working-class environment.”
“Women’s relationships with women mostly take the form of visiting relationships, although a minority of female partners, with their children, share a household. These varied arrangements are made possible by the circumstance that most Creole working-class women own or rent their own houses and are single heads of households. Mati thus form part of and actually continually ‘cross over’ in a dual sex system, which comprises an opposite-gendered and a same-gendered arena.” (122-123)

Wekker hopes “to have made a case for the critical investigation and bracketing of the concept “homosexual identity.” The deeply essentialist strand of it often unwittingly introduces hampers rather than facilitates our understanding of the behavior we are trying to understand cross-culturally.”
“In the second place, emic constructions and explanations of same-gender sexual behavior need to be taken seriously. There is no reason to assume that the Western folk knowledge about sex, which has been elevated into academic knowledge, should have been more validity than folk knowledge anywhere else.”
“Third, the cross-cultural study of same-gender sexual behavior should proceed from the realization that ‘homosexualities’ are multiple and manifold, realized in different contexts and charged with different meanings”
“Finally, if in participant observation it is the person of the researcher that serves that serves as the most central and sensitive instrument of research, it behooves those of us who do (cross-cultural) sex research to be transparent, accountable, and reflective about our own sexualities.” (134)

“Let Them Take Ecstasy”

These quotes have been pulled from an essay written by Alison J. Murray, titled “Let The Take Ecstacy:Class and Jakarta Lesbians,” which was published in the anthology female desires.

“I want to show that class is a major division between Jakarta lesbians. A discussion of the dominant ideology of women’s sexuality that invisibilizes and stigmatizes homosexuality and scenes from everyday urban life will illustrate how lesbian experiences vary according to context.” (139)
“There is no lesbian ‘community’ in Jakarta since class overdetermines both class and sexuality, but there can be strategic communities and identities in specific times and spaces.”(140)

“..lesbian identity is confined to women with short hair and other prescribed ‘lesbian’ signifiers. Meanwhile closeted networks of upper-class lesbians are linked to a growing global lesbian and gay movement, but these women usually maintain a ‘straight’ appearance in Jakarta.”
The idea of the happy and healthy nuclear family indoctrinates people with the idea that marriage to a man is essential to make a woman complete; sexuality and sexual practices are thereby controlled by being subsumed within correct gender roles.” (141)

“While lesbianism is not officially illegal, the minister for women’s affairs has stated that lesbianism is not a part of Indonesian culture or state ideology; this is an example of a common technique of blaming anything undesirable on the decadent West while simultaneously embracing all kinds of clearly inappropriate Western technologies and consumer goods.”
It is not lesbian activity that has been imported from the West, but the word lesbi to label the Western concept of individual based on a fixed sexuality.” (142)

“I have found it hard to avoid the word ‘lesbian’ to refer to female-female sexual relations, but it should no be taken to imply permanent self identity. It is very important to understand the social contexts of behavior in order to avoid drawing conclusions based on innapropriate Western notions of lesbian identity, community, or ‘queer’ culture.”

“..we should interrogate the assumptions of the international gay/lesbian movement about a common global identity which is a basis for a new sort of global political movement. It seems that Indonesians, particularly gay men, are finding a place in the international movement and its political agenda as well as in its cosmopolitan bar scene- probably more so than Indonesian gays and lesbians are finding a common identity among themselves.”

“Rosawita points out that the ideological suppresion of women in all spheres makes lesbians more silent to gay men and gives them little basis for a coalition with gay men.. If sexuality is perceived as male and people are defined in relation to men, then it follows that gay men are hypervisible and lesbians are invisible.”
“I suggest that the form of this invisibility varies with class: higher class lesbians choose to hide to retain power, while the regime chooses not to see the lower-class subculture at all. To acknowledge lesbians would allow women an active sexuality that is not part of ‘women’s destiny.’ (144-145)

Native American Voices

These stories are given in examples from the essay, “Lesbians, Men-Women, and Two-Spirits” written by Sabine Lang, from the anthology female desires.

“Joan was born around 1953 and lived in urban surroundings since her family relocated in the late 1950s, but she still has ties to her reservation.

I was really a tomboy. By the time I came out it was more or less suspected already, you know? I was just always very different! So when I finally really came out and started bringing lovers home and stuff, they already started treating me like I was just like a guy. As I was growing up some of these Indian males on the reservation that are straight and that I visited growing up, they just treat me like a guy. I’ve always been the kind of person who hung out with the guys.” (107)

“An Ojibwa woman summarized her experience and other Native American lesbians as follows:

As a two-spirited woman of the First Nations, you are aware of ‘triple opression.’ You are a lesbian, female, and Native in a society dominated by a world that does not honor women or indigenous peoples and by a world that says your sexuality is non-existent, a phase, a threat, or a sin against God…You find yourself in a city built on racism and fed on the oppression of everyone who is not heterosexual, white, and male.” (110)

Lesbians, Men-Women and Two Spirits:Homosexuality and Gender in Native American Cultures

The following quotes have been pulled from Sabine Lang’s essay, “Lesbians, Men-Women, and Two-Spirits” from the Anthology female desires.

“Within their respective cultures men-women and women-men are classified as neither men nor women, but genders of their own. This is also reflected in Native American languages to refer to them. These words are different from the words for woman and man, and often indicate that women-men and men-women are often seen, one way or another, as combining the masculine and the feminine.. Apart from gender constructions, the roles and statuses of individuals who are neither men nor women in Native American cultures are embedded within worldviews that emphasize and appreciate transformation and change.. Within such worldviews, and individual who changes his or her gender once or more often in the course of her life is not viewed as an abnormality but rather as a part of the natural order of things.. The emphasis on transformation and change in Native American cultures also includes the idea that an individual is expected to go through many changed in a lifetime.
People who are familiar with their culture’s gender variance emphasize elements that spirituality that were crucial to the roles of women-men and men-women and still are important where such roles continue to exist. This even holds true for contemporary ‘two-spirited’ Native Americans who for that reason may feel restricted by categories like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian.’ These categories are defined in terms of sexual behavior instead of personhood, spirituality, and specific, complex identities deriving from the experience of being Native American, as opposed to beinh white or of any other ethnic heritage.” (92-93)

“Due to the influences of white concepts and Christianity, gender variance and homosexual behavior have come to be met with some strong disapproval on and off the reservations. People either adopted white attitudes and values or did not wish to see their cultures criticized by whites for permitting expressions of ‘perversion’.. People of whatever sexual inclination are expected to fit into everyday life on their rural reservation community. The inappropriateness here does not necessarily lie in the fact that sexuality is concerned, but that certain people try to set themselves apart from the community at large.” (101)

The Politics of Identities and Languages: Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India

Excerps from Giti Thadani’s essay in female desires

“I use the word ‘lesbian’ in a generic sense to connote various levels of interfeminine fusion and play that may be situated not only on sexual planes but also on cosmogonic, psychic, erotic, and kinship levels. Although the use of the word ‘lesbian’ may seem somewhat essentialist, I choose to employ this concept because it raises the problematic of lesbian invisibility in non-Western histories. My use of the concept of ‘lesbian’ is a political choice meant to foreground erotic and sexual desire between women and to break the isolation that is imposed through compulsory heterosexuality.” (67)

“In contemporary India the rich traditions of the feminine are either masculinized or subsumed under dominant male traditions. Secular hisoriography and writing about the present are no different in this respect, for they do not explore the shirt from plural cosmogonic traditions to monotheistic or monoandrocentric religions . Instead, those kinds of simply become a liberal other to fundamentalist ideology and thereby subscribe to the absencing of the ‘cosmo-social-sexual’ feminine.
This absence is carries out above all through language. Words such as bhagini (female erotic bonding), sakhi (female companion, lover), jami (twin) have lost their former sexual, cosmo-social meanings; they are translated today simply as ‘sister’ or ‘woman friend.’ Most Hindi to Hindi dictionaries do not have any explicit word to connote lesbian sexuality. The words shanda/shandali are translated as follows:

a woman desiring like a man
a woman having properties like a man
a biologically deficient woman
a woman having no breasts
a woman not menstruating
a wanton woman
a selfish woman
an autoerotic woman (84)

“Lesbian sexuality is equated to male desire and thus invisibilized. Where there is visibility it is usually through reference to the ‘West’ as either a neutral derivation of the English word or in few case as a return back to a homophobic context.” (85)

“The bringing together of different geographic-sexual contexts through language is important in breaking the dichotomy set up by opposing ideologies. When a word like sakhi associated with the word ‘lesbian,’ it creates a multiplicity of contexts. It grafts cosmological feminine traditions onto the sexual-political visibility generated by outside lesbian movements. Moreover, it questions the inherent bigotry of the compartmentalized ‘Western’ and ‘traditional’ beliefs in the modern urban Indian who would not question speaking in English but yet would object to using the word ‘lesbian.’