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Arts

Cinema Politica: Our Bodies are your Battlefields

The documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields, screened by Cinema Politica, shows the lives of trans women in Argentina fighting for their rights and to be accepted

Image from the official trailer for “Our Bodies are Your Battlefields”

Cinema Politica screened the premiere of the documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields on Monday, March 6 in the atrium of the Hall Building. Cinema Politica is a media arts non-profit which screens a selection of independent political films. The local at Concordia, active since 2004, is Cinema Politica’s longest running film showcase, attracting hundreds of people to their weekly screening throughout the semester. 

The film, written and directed by Isabelle Solas, shows the lives of trans activists Claudia and Violeta, as well as those of their compatriots, in their daily political struggle for acceptance in Argentina. Despite the reality of discrimination they face from upholders of the patriarchal society and trans-exclusionary feminists, among others, they manage to fight for political progress and form community with each other.

The films’ intimate portrayal of these women in both their activism and relationship to one another rings authentic. The different relationships these women have with their friends, families and each other demonstrates a vast diversity of trans experiences — something that is rarely shown and so often ignored. Claudia is close with her mother who supports her and her cause, whereas many other trans people were shunned or kicked out of their homes. They had to turn to sex work for survival, and have strived together for support and political activism in the community.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with two speakers, Anaïs Zeledon Montenegro and Elle Barbara, from the Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q), a project under CACTUS Montréal. ASSTT(e)Q is run by and for trans people, to help trans people in need of healthcare and social services. The program’s core funding is being cut in April and they are collecting donations.

Barbara shared how she related to the protagonists of the film since, prior to working at ASTT(e)Q, they were heavily involved in the grassroots project Taking What We Need which organized parties and fundraisers to give money to low-income trans feminine people in Montreal. This allowed Barbara to politicize transness. 

“That’s what transness was like to me, it is intrinsically political. And in that regard, I find the experiences depicted in the documentary are similar.”

Montenegro, who also has experience being on the streets, shared the importance of greeting people with love at ASTT(e)Q. 

“We’re trying to do our best at ASTT(e)Q to make people think that there’s hope. That’s what we talk about: hope.”

The Cinema Politica film screenings are always free with the possibility to contribute donations at the venue. Their funding also comes from the Canada Council for the Arts and membership  fees.

Upcoming Cinema Politica screenings can be found on their website. 

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Opinions

We need to redefine the word ‘woman’ in order to reflect reality

One student’s response to Barbara Kay’s misogynistic piece in the National Post

Gender politics has been a hot topic for quite some time now. With the rise of controversial figures such as Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, people from the right-wing of the political spectrum have entertained their ideas, calling their comments “free speech” when they are clearly insulting someone’s identity. Barbara Kay, a columnist and former Concordia English literature professor, shares similar beliefs to these men.

In an article published in the National Post on Sept. 13, Kay used biological reality as a weapon to blatantly discriminate against transgender activists. In the article, titled “Diluting the meaning of ‘woman,’ to appease transgender activists, is misogyny,” she argues that radical trans activists “are guilty of the worst form of misogyny in their ruthless campaign to erase from our thoughts the human female body as a unique life form.”

Kay’s perspective disrespects trans women who tenaciously fight for their right to be recognized as equal to cisgender women. Kay’s idea of misogyny ignores the same misogyny that many trans women face on a daily basis just to operate as women in our society. Trans activist and actress Cassandra James shared her struggles with misogyny in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter saying, “I remember complaining to a co-worker of mine, who was a cis woman, about some of the [misogyny] I was experiencing, and she said, ‘Welcome. Welcome to what it means to be a woman.’” James’s experience is only a fragment of what thousands of trans women face including sexual assault, hostility, and cat-calling both in public and in the workplace.

In my opinion, Kay played selective feminism, as she willingly chose to ignore the complex misogyny that trans women face. She only took into account the misogyny faced by cisgender women.

There is a fine line between free speech and offensive speech. In Kay’s article, she criminalizes transgender individuals by presenting the anecdote of Karen White, a trans woman who sexually assaulted four women in a women’s prison after being sentenced to 18 months for the sexual abuse of a child. Kay reinforced the belief that trans women are men who pretend to be women in order to sexually assault women and minors. She misled people to believe that we must be afraid of trans women because they are ‘wrongdoers.’ Promoting these types of ideas further marginalizes transgender individuals while creating further stigma and prejudice. We must not hold an entire group accountable for the actions of one individual, because it conveys to the public that transgender individuals are the same as child molesters.

Many individuals firmly disagree and call it “politicizing language” to consider trans women “real” women. They also argue that trans women are biologically male and, therefore, cannot be women. I believe language should be used to reflect reality. The word ‘woman’ was initially created to encompass only women who were born biologically female. Now that many trans women have disclosed their identity, it is important to redefine ‘woman’ to include trans women, and essentially, to better reflect reality. Since trans women identify and have always felt themselves to be women, I believe it is our duty to include them in that definition. This is important, not only for social inclusion, but also to reflect a subjective reality that both cisgender women and transgender women experience.

There is clear scientific evidence that shows transgender individuals’ feelings of being born as the wrong biological sex. In an article titled “Biological origins of sexual orientation and gender identity: Impact on health” published by PubMed, researchers confirm that “multiple layers of evidence confirm that sexual orientation and gender identity are as biological, innate and immutable as the other traits conferred during [the first half of pregnancy].”

I believe the definition of ‘woman’ is a socially-driven term that refers to one’s gender identity, gender expression and gendered role in society. The idea that gender is intrinsically connected to one’s biological sex is a false claim; many transgender, intersex or individuals with chromosomal abnormalities live as a different gender from their biological sex. Furthermore, there are many cisgender women who are infertile or born with conditions where the vagina and uterus are either underdeveloped or absent. Aren’t they women? Sorry Barbara, but women come in all shapes and sizes.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

 

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