The Stake and the Wedge (September 15, 2009)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
During the summer of 2009, while I was building this video-book with the team at Vectors/ Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC, I also produced the microbudget, collective, feature narrative/documentary film The Owls. This is one of a cluster of blogs where my thinking on other projects was influenced by my YouTube work, and vice versa.
Debates about whether radical content demands radical form have been central to modernist and postmodernist avant-garde and political art movements. Some argue that mainstream audiences can be best reached through forms already familiar to them. Others believe that ideas that resist or contradict a society's hegemonic beliefs (its commonly held views) can not be contained in forms that are themselves hegemonic, already familiar and comfortable.

Transgender studies looks at "behaviors, bodies, and subjective identities which contest common Eurocentric notions of gender has a history stretching back at least to the early 20th century ... By mid-century, feminist scholars had appropriated scientific paradigms that posited a distinction between bodily sex and psychosocial gender, and deployed them in politically radical ways that envisioned greater equality between genders. In the closing years of the last century, an upstart generation of queer theorists further disarticulated the presumed coherence of heteronormative personhood to create a broader awareness of just how diverse gendered identity can be."[cit]

In "trans men and butch women: a summary perspective," StudWithSwag writes: "female masculinity and male masculinity/ born in the right body and born in the wrong body/ being mistaken for a man and being mistaken for a woman/ female identity and male identity."[cit]

One of my three founding calls for this project is working collaboratively: benefiting from the diversity of our approaches, training, experience, and positions leads to the best media praxis. We need to be brave enough to teach each other, and work past specialization, in the variety of languages in which we are comfortable and trained.
"The female is immanent, the female is bone-deep, the female is instinct. With Lili's eager complicity, The Professor drives a massive wedge between the masculine and the feminine within her."– Sandy Stone, Posttransexaul Manifesto

The "Professor's" use of the wedge cuts like a knife to distinguish, separate, rule, master, isolate. This is neither the stake nor the wedge I call for.

While a wedge holds within its meaning much that might be queer—some of the cheesiness of camp, the tip of a stable heel, or the sexual toying (of a wedgie)—I want to use the term in relation to issues ... wedge issues.

In common parlance, we use "wedge" as does the Professor: to mark, signal, and create divides. To know. But I'd like to think about how we dealt with the "wedge issue" of butch/trans while making The Owls as the queer sort of wedge I most aspire to.

By inviting Jack Halberstam to the set to begin a conversation about this issue, the Owls Parliament signaled its interest in naming (not hiding) this controversy amongst the cast and crew, and within the script itself. While individual actors went on to make choices about the gender/sexuality identification of their characters along lines that were rather traditionally butch/femme (and which closely matched their own lived enactments), the conversations surrounding this (many of them filmed) began to create ripples across the Parliament.

The fictional part of the film ended up recording Cheryl's (and the cast's) vision of this issue, but the documentary part of the film recorded something else: the discord and debate and then related transformations. Once cut into the film, these documentary moments will inevitably change and grow the "story," allowing for the dissonance of the dialectical. Wedge as conversation and connection, not as division. The stake opens it up, and the wedge becomes the stage for dialogue and for dreaming.