Topic 1: gendaAgenda 2018

I’ve undertaken 3 tasks on this blog topic

1. Visit the Gender Diversity at UAL website (link) and answer the questions. (below)
2. Read hooks, bell (2013) ‘Understanding Patriarchy’ (link) Discuss two things you learnt from the text. And one question/provocation you have about the text.

3. Watch the film: Pay it No Mind- The life and times of Marsha P. Johnson: Discuss any reflections you have on the film

TASK 1: Gender Diversity UAL website.

Question1. How could you apply the resources to your own teaching practice?
Answer 1.  I’m going to answer this in steps

  1. First I will provide some Context about my teaching.
  2. Then look at the a non-binary student scenario.
  3. The look at the use of Trans-history swords-person case studies.
  4. And consider gender cop-outs and this resource.

I teach combat for actors.

Sometimes I have to work very hard to create an affirming classroom where everyone knows they belong. This is not easy because of several received notions of the subject.

The biggest obstacles to a sense of belonging in combat training is traditional gender bias. Aside from cis-gender males (who often seem to assume the subject is for them), students don’t automatically believe combat belongs to them, or they belong in the combat classroom. ‘Combat is not for me because I am…  ‘(fill in the blank… female, too gay, too camp, not butch enough…) On top of this my role as combat teacher is perceived with some prejudice- as judgemental and patriarchal.

Students expect me to behave in a alpha masculine manner, even when they have no evidence I will be like that (except perhaps a beard.) Perhaps they project onto me their own prejudices. Perhaps it is the cynicism of the acting profession; even in this post-Weinstein world students graduate or leave to enter a professional world dominated by sexist and discriminory  casting practice.

The UAL Supporting trans students website can be helpful when Trans students are in the room.
In the last 20 years I’ve only had 2 students who came in under the trans umbrella in my classroom, only one at UAL. Both instances seemed successful. The word seemed is important. I’m not actually sure. Having this online resource will actually allow me to form a better bespoke follow up. I will be able to find out how my subject can help them express themselves and work to achieve this.

History has many instances of combatants who were empowered by their skills and lived outside of the binary model. The UAL site is useful if only in the terminology which we can use to inform our discussion of historical examples past. This could be very helpful in helping everyone in the room realise that personal empowerment through combat skills is for everyone across the gender spectrum. We all belong.

Gender identity in cis-females and feminine identifying students is often accepted as a reason to opt out of combat training at drama school. “I guess I’m just too feminine to be good at this” or “I feel too girly to ever expect to use this” are accepted as excuses. I think there is something deeply wrong with this.

I am more empowered by this resource to address the ‘ultra-feminine’ get out. Actor training is an opportunity to explore one’s range and challenge one’s own perceptions of what a person is capable of doing and being.  This year our programme Drama and Performance has finally begun to remove the casting limitations previously observed, and we are now casting outside of gender boundaries.  This is not an experiment- it is the new normal. This means of course that skills that were traditionally ‘male’ or ‘female’ territory like combat, are now everyone’s territory.

Q2. How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice?
A2. I blog as I teach. Students often look up things I mention in class. They are surprised at the instances of fighters transcending traditional gender, race, and disability boundaries. I think it may be worthwhile informally blogging about what the students find and the changing perceptions of these students. This may link in with my artefact.

Q3. Can you cite examples?
A3. I have introduced a couple examples of historical figures who challenge gender norms the received notions of who can be a ‘swordsmen.’

220px-beardsley_de_maupin_bw La Maupin – duelist, fugitive, androgynous, opera singer

Chevalier d’Eon – commander of a French dragoon regiment, russian lady-in-waiting, spy, gentleman, fencer



These historical figures certainly break from binary norms.


Task 2. Read Hooks, Bell (2013) ‘Understanding Patriarchy’

Discuss two things you learnt from the text. And one question/provocation you have about the text.

I Learned 1) that A female person can be part of the patriarchy AND a feminist. (read more)

I learned 2) Patriarchy causes moral injury in men rendering them ’emotional cripples.’ (read more) 

Finally a question or provocation:  The author seems confident of every assertion of this piece. Although largely sympathetic and agreeing, I find the essay alienating due to the extreme point of view and absolutisms employed. The argument the author makes could be more evidence based. However, it relies primarily on received notions and limited anecdotal evidence. I would challenge that author to tell us which of their assertions have the best evidence. Which are they are most confident are entirely correct. And which they believe are most likely to be less entirely correct.

Task 3: Watch the film: Pay it No Mind– The life and times of Marsha P. Johnson: Discuss any reflections you have on the film

Marsha’s generation was so important. She was a transcendent figure.  She understood that standing up for herself was also standing up for every person on the planet. The universal importance of being herself, and the brave folks around her in New York changed everything for so many people I know.

But people need to remember that the battles she fought were fought in every big American city. New York is pretty tough, but it’s also pretty progressive. I spent much of my 20’s in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was not exactly progressive in 1990 when I showed up.  I lived in The Fan on Grace Street, two blocks from the ‘combat zone’. The building caretaker was a transvestite prostitute, and rednecks in pickups used to curb crawl through our street. It was an optimistic time though.  And we had our characters. Our world of art school, bars, run down victorian houses. And we had Dirt Woman.

Watching this documentary about Marsha is a fresh reminder that in September 2017, Donnie Corker of Richmond, Virginia passed away.  Donnie was no Marsha.  Donnie was a drag queen known affectionately as ‘Dirt Woman’ in The Fan in Richmond, and this article ran a couple weeks after he died in September. And here is a snatch from the documentary to follow.

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A couple of my friends in Richmond are working on an appropriate memorial.

I don’t doubt at all that Marsha and the NY Village scene (and the chroniclers of times like Andy Warhol and Lou Reed) were an inspiration to Donnie.  Her generation emboldened his, and from ‘Pay It No Mind’ it’s clear she was a model of tolerance and generosity. Donnie never had much of anything, but he always gave and gave and gave. And because of Marsha’s documentary, Richmond’s chroniclers have a work to make sure that Donnie is never forgotten.

Actually, it’s impossible to forget Donnie AKA Dirt Woman.  The endeavour is make sure sure that she’s remembered with pride.


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