Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"The Butch Factor": Christopher Hines reviews "masculinity" in gay men

Wolfe video offers the Christopher Hines 2009 film “The Butch Factor” (73 minutes), with the summary tagline “What does it mean to be gay and be a man? There’s no straight answer for sure.” A pun is definitely intended, as the early part of the film traverses the area of gay sports, including gay rugby, football and softball leagues, particularly in California. (Mark Bingham, one of the heroes on Flight 93 on 9/11, had played rugby.) The film also covers gay men who work as sheriff’s deputies or as prison guards.

The later part of the film deals with subjects like circuits, and the opposite of what is desired at these parties, “the bears.” Body hair itself seems ambiguous, as some see it as a distraction, and others see it as a part-object indicating masculinity. (The Advocate had a big article on this as I remember around 1984.)

The middle part of the film covers the problem of gay teens being bullied, in high school. A could of websites “Queer Today” (link) and Trevor Hoppe’s “Beyond Masculinity" (link, “Essays by Queer Men on Gender & Politics”). One of the men described extreme bullying in high school, with threats on his locker. I experienced bullying in junior high, which was not as intense, but serious enough that I bullied back, one time (in 1958) making fun of someone with epilepsy in ninth grade, until I learned social bearings. I greatly regret this; but at the time I perceived the bullying as “Darwinian”: I was behind physically, which could mean that others might have to sacrifice in my place. I grew up in an era conscious of the meaning of a military draft, and in a world where men were expected or required to protect women and children, regardless of their own choices.

The film does not take up the subject of the Rosenfels polarities, but that could have become another topic.

The DVD includes a short subject, “For the Love of Sport, Gay Men Play Ball” about the gay softball world series. Dave Kopay talks about his coming out as a pro football player in the 1970s. Gay sports bars are presented (an example that I know is Nellie’s in Washington DC). I played in the gay softball league in Dallas in 1984. This was slow pitch, and yet there a couple of pitchers who were absolutely unhittable, with their ability to toss strikes with an extremely high arc. Some games were low-scoring. One women’s softball game went 17 innings.

The film's website is here.

Wolfe’s YouTube trailer follows:

The film was shown at Reel Affirmations 19 in 2009 in Washington DC, and some of it was shown in the downstairs area of the Town DC club.

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