The most imaginative thing about this documentary, is the title itself – Cracks in the Patriarchy. The film comprises seven LGBTQI+ talking heads, none of whom are especially interesting, but is compounded by a lack of probing questions, so they just ramble on, often repeating the same points ad nauseum. We learn nothing about who they are really and how they got involved in politics. Technically speaking it’s completely inept, as the lighting, sound, camera angles, editing and use of montage are all extremely poor. Basically the filmmakers just aimed a camera at their subjects and screamed Action!
There can only be one reason why the Scottish Queer International Film Festival wanted to air this film and that will be its unflinching endorsement of queer politics. If I hear the phrase cis heteronormativity one more time I’ll, I’ll …. I don’t know … I’ll probably write another essay about it.
Significantly the film opens with Alba Rueda, a trans-identified man and activist, who tells us that he wants to influence public policies. Then we see a young mum with a baby – the baby is draped in a pro-abortion message – one of the few symbolic images.
So let’s talk about the contributors.
Firstly there is a very long rambling piece to camera by a woman who is very actively organising the abortion legalisation movement in Argentina. She talks about the issue in an entirely dispassionate way, as if it were merely an issue of bodily autonomy, rather than a last resort for desperate women. She talks repeatedly about the violence of the state and when she realises her rhetoric sounds a bit empty, lamely adds that losing a job or lacking an education is violence. Yes, there is *violence/lay-offs/fuckwits everywhere!
*delete as applicable
Alba Rueda set up Noti Trans, a trans activist magazine, and conflates intersex to trans identities. He claimed that trans people had difficulty finding jobs. Alba is against ‘sex segregation’ and that men like him had fought against segregation in the feminist movement, but now they were fully accepted at the annual National Women’s Conference. Alba told us that women (‘trans men’) can also get pregnant and that trans activism had enriched feminism. As many of the other contributors did, but none more so than him, he talked figuratively about violence, but didn’t give any examples of this, except to say it happened to him at university. He was happy that it was now against the law for trans people to be medically pathologised. The thing that made him most happy was seeing his official papers describe him as female. Alba needs to get out more.
A black gay man talked at length about black empowerment and the need for separate black LGBTQ spaces, and explained that white women had dominated feminism [in Argentina] and had until recent times excluded black women from official meetings. I have no idea if this is true, but one thing I am absolutely sure of, the filmmakers did not fact check such statements. Also: Police oppression includes the police turning up to crowd control the demonstrations he attends.
Then there was a lesbian woman who had started a club night for women only, which as it got more successful open its doors to the the rest of the alphabet sick bag. She thought diversity and giving space to identities was key.
A lesbian political activist who belonged to a political organisation which had helped bring in the Equal Marriage Act and the Gender Identity Act repeatedly stated, what felt like a dozen times (this is how poorly edited it was), how important law was but that cultural change comes later. She also campaigns for greater ‘family diversity’ and said she was supportive of adoption and assisted reproductive techniques (ART), and although she didn’t use the word, she was clearly talking about surrogacy. She felt that lesbians and trans feminism were still invisible to society. Oh and women (‘trans men’) can also get pregnant, doncha know.
Certainly the most irritating contributor for me was a self-described ‘queer cis male’ who bragged about his feminist credentials. He claimed that he was called ‘puto’ whilst growing up (meaning somewhere between male prostitute and faggot but is also frequently used as a generic insult according to Mr Google). I suspect that his interest in feminism directly related back to how many notches were on his bedpost. Let’s call him Puto.
Puto’s principal feminist concerns were abortion (men and non-binary people have them too) and sex education with an emphasis on – you’ve guessed it – gender identity. The Gender Identity Act of 2012, he tells us happily, had enshrined in law the phrase ‘people who can undergo a pregnancy’. Trans men were invisible in feminism. Non-binary people didn’t have bodily autonomy yet – this needed to be redressed via legislation. Puto was fighting for cis men to stand aside and let women speak.
Then there was Mosquita, a gay drag artist, the oldest of the talking heads. He’d lived through the dictatorship (1976-1983) and had experience of being stopped by the police for his androgynous appearance. He’d also been called ‘puto’. I was expecting to hear substantial tales of abuse and mayhem from him (30,000 people ‘disappeared’ in Argentina during the dictatorship) but I can only assume being gay in Buenos Aires was sort of tolerated back then. Now he organises arts festivals for drag queens and trans activists, being especially supportive of the latter.
Finally they all got out of their prams by the one real life example of anti-gay discrimination that they could possibly muster, which was that of a lesbian couple being asked to leave a bar because they kissed. I’m sure there must be many real incidences of violence in Argentina directed at homosexuals (mostly male I expect), so this example seemed a strange one for the documentary to highlight.
The contributors claimed that they were all anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-cis heteronormativity, but I didn’t really see any critique of the government (Mosquita recalls fondly meeting President Cristina Kirchner who faced serious corruption charges) or of capitalism (the allusion to surrogacy being particularly noteworthy). The idea that they think they are the revolutionaries is quite *funny/sad/stupid/scary/typical
*delete as applicable
The thing that I thought was most interesting (okay-okay it was the only interesting thing) is just how generic identity politics has come. Here are a bunch of middle class people living on the other side of the world, with a recent history of dictatorship, non-English speaking, i.e. vast differences in culture, and yet the politics were that you would hear from any queer activist anywhere in the world. It’s like there’s a little factory somewhere is creating these people.