Sunday, 27 September 2015

More Feminist Porrn

Trigger Warnings: Discussion of pornography, NSFW, Video of an Asshole

1. Having come down rather hard on SQIFF's Feminist Porn selection (suggesting that it was mis-titled and condemning the pretension of Marit Ostberg's contributions), I'd like to dwell on a work that didn't fill me with anger and frustration, but missed the mark both as pornography and feminist film-making. 

Shave Me, Mirror Me is not pornography. Director, and star, Lasse Rusk, has made a personal 'transsexual erotic movie about wanting to kill your inner man and be reborn into mother earth'. It's got a bit of hot cock wanking action, but mostly consists of Lasse's transformation (to looking a bit like early Prince, which is kinda sexy, though). 

2. Pornography has a very clear intention: to get the audience off. Erotica (bearing in mind that old joke - erotica is what I like, porn is what you like) aims at something more complex, but is really just a more pleasant tag for sexy material. Erotica is possibly a better term to use in this context, since it lacks the stigma of pornography (the root in Greek implies that it describes the actions of prostitutes).

And Lasse is an undeniably erotic presence through the film. But as the reference to mother earth suggests in the description, there's a bunch of New Age bullshit structuring the adventure. Lasse adds in some unpleasant comments on masculinity (it's all violence and machismo, apparently) that connects back to less nuanced Radical Feminism (a feminism that has little time for trans identity). 

Most of Shave Me follows Lasse's journey, which is fine, if a little self-indulgent. There's plenty of chat about friendship, past or possible sexual encounters, but little context. By being so apolitical, Lasse might be making another point (not all trans film has to be about the politics). But it is also a film about a small group of people, with little displayed consciousness about the wider meanings of gender.

3. Even if the film is about sex, that does not make it porn. But the charge that it isn't feminist is more tricky. The lack of explicit political awareness isn't necessarily a problem, although it is frustrating. Where it gets confused is in the final sequence, which pitches live action child-birth against Lasse dancing about in nature.

While I reject most essentialism about gender, giving birth is one of those things that remain, at the moment, the domain of cis-gendered women. I mean literally giving birth, not having children.

Juxtaposing that with an under-developed ritual to cleanse Lasse of masculinity was not a powerful move. It undermined the point. In my opinion, of course. 

4. So the failure as a feminist film consists of presenting childbirth as a marker of identity. Discuss, if you like. 

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