This spring I'm teaching COMS/WGST 335 Masculinity in Film, a course that takes a feminist perspective to analyze portrayals of sex and gender in film with a particular focus on how men and masculinity can be represented. As a class, we study a number of topics and films. For example, to engage gender performance we view Some Like It Hot (1959), to confront "the gaze" we watch The Full Monty (1997) and to grasp documentary constructions of reality we screen The Mask You Live In (2015).
Today signals an important opportunity to reflect on the course because today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In short, "It (IDAHOT) was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally. In under a decade, May 17 has established itself the single most important date for LGBTI communities to mobilise on a worldwide scale" (http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/).
As I think back on May 8, the date of our last class, I see connections to today, May 17. During lecture, I encouraged my students to continue to read critically and evaluate gender-related representations in film. From there, they might go beyond just seeing films for entertainment, but instead analyzing films for meaning. And, they might go a step further and consider writing a letter to the editor or a blog post to praise and/or critique constructions of gender in Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens (2015), Moonlight (2016), or Beauty and the Beast (2017).
Additionally, I challenged my students to recognize the complexity of gender. This, in my opinion, is particularly salient because while some say males are inherently masculine and females are inherently feminine, I say an acceptance of such thinking polarizes rather than unites. Furthermore, I say there is nothing innate, natural or normal about any human traits.
Today, people in more than 130 countries will celebrate sexual and gender diversities with events and recognitions. With this in mind, I ask you to acknowledge that you perform your own gender identity. And, of equal or greater importance, I ask you to judge others by human norms rather than by gendered norms. By doing the latter, we take a crucial step in creating spaces that respect and revere our society's human and cultural diversity.
Find a general brochure on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia online.
Thomas C. Johnson, Luther assistant professor of Communication Studies, has taught critical media studies and media production courses at Luther since 2011. Along with teaching, his research interests include pedagogy, sport media, television studies, gender studies and documentary film.