Self defence; a right that most citizen’s feel entitled to and why my father tucked a can of pepper spray into my backpack the day the dropped me at University. defence was the reason that Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson and Renata Hill were convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to three-eleven years in prison amongst them. The four were labeled the Gang of Lesbian Killers, or the New Jersey Four. The four New Yorker’s were walking in the West Village, which is considered a LGBT friendly zone, when a local filmmaker named Dwayne Buckle began to yell profanities at the group of women. The man pointed at Patreese’s crotch and demanded, “Let me get some of that!” (The New York Times, Hartocollis), and simply replied, “no thank you, I’m not interested in that.” The heterosexual (Gendered Worlds, 99) Buckle then launched into a homophobic (113) berate on the women, and called them obscenities such as a pack of dykes and threw his lit cigarette at them. The group of women stopped to confront the man, as they have the right to do so. Buckle then attacked the group and a fight ensured, ending with Hill using a small penknife to cut the man as she feared for her own life. Buckle suffered minimal injuries, which he exaggerated in court. The trial that followed the incident was mishandled completely by the judge and had an entirely Caucasian jury. Each of the individuals were charged with aggravated assault and were charged anywhere from four to eleven years in prison. They eventually retried the conviction and had their sentences lowered, and met to celebrate at the end of the documentary.
The film explored a world previously un-known to myself; a universe filled ofracialization (GNDS 125, Week 2), homophobia and political stigma’s revolving the two. The wealthy community I grew up in accustomed me to extreme white privilege (117) and it had never struck me before this film how deeply race and sexuality hinders women. Growing up with my parents teaching me that the standard story (19) was the life I was determined to live was like waking up and being a weak sparrow being locked inside a steel cage. Yet, as I’ve grown up and been exposed to diverse media and culture, I have learned that the standard story is not necessarily the right one, nor the best one. If I were in that situation I would undoubtedly retaliate and stand up for myself, but the difference is I would probably not be sent to live the majority of my young life on Riker’s Island, because of my race and sexual preference. The way that our culture perceives players of intersectionality sadly and disgustingly shapes courts and political system’s around our globe. The fact that these brave women stepped out of the lens of gender polarization (60) to rise as being more than just submissive, irrational people got them essentially thrown in jail. The group all originates from a neighbourhood in New Jersey, which they all described as the “hood”. If I did not think that being a woman was hard enough in it-self, it’s hard to imagine being a Lesbian, African American woman hailing from a poor neighbourhood. The group nearly goes through a checklist of culture created discriminatory points and checks them off one by one. Sexism, check. Racism, Check. Cis-sexism, check. Yet, these women inspired me deeply with their ability to stand in front of a man who belittled them and stand for what they believed was just.
The scene that has been edged into my memory since leaving the Screening Room was the scene in which the lawyer that retried the case showed damming evidence that the victims wounds were extremely minimal. There were two scars on the man’s abdomen, one in the centre which was a large gash that would have had to be done with a steak knife, and the second being a very small wound on the left side of his body that stretched no more than two-three inches. In the first trial the jury was told that Hill made the larger scar. Hill was sentenced for eleven years to a state penitentiary for attempted murder. In reality, Hill created the much smaller cut in order to save her and her friend’s lives. The blatant mishandling of the case baffled me, how could the prosecution possibly make this horrible of a mistake? This large of a botched case is almost inconceivable, we look to the law for the upmost amount of justice yet, their justice system allowed this to happen and for these women to be convicted to in-proper sentencing because of their perceived ideas of how these women must be due to their sexuality and race.
The Reelout film festival was overall an extremely enjoyable experience for me. Walking in Screening Room’s entrance was a bit worrying due to the odd location of the theatre, yet once I got upstairs I was presently surprised with the inviting feeling. When I walked in I saw my Political Studies professor sitting front row with popcorn in hand, and this delighted me to no end. To see a professor at my own university involving herself in such an important cultural community event outside of Queen’s campus was amazing to witness. The movie was completely sold out, and not only to students. It excited me to live in a community that accepts the LGBT and celebrates it.
Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
Out In The Night. 2014. Film.
Hartocollins, Anemona. “Woman in Gang Assault Trial Says Man Started the Fight.” The New York Times 14 Apr. 2008. The New York Times. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/14/nyregion/14assault.html?ex=1177128000&en=a1ea123367fd1a57&ei=5099&partner=TOPIXNEWS&_r=0>.
Tolmie, Jane. ” GNDS 125, Week 2.” Queen’s University. Biology-Sciences Auditorium, Kingston, ON. 14 January 2015.