Re-framing the Present

Tell the story of a current news event. Use all of the available and appropriate perspectives at your disposal to make a version of the story, which you feel is more accurate. It needn’t be a national news event it might be hyper local, perhaps you see a national narrative that doesn’t reflect your local/cultural reality etc.

Over recent weeks I’ve been exploring ideas surrounding gender identity, sex and transsexualism. This inspired me to choose a current news event, which would compliment my chosen area of research: the change in gender laws in Germany, broadcasted November 2013.

Germany has become the first country in Europe to allow babies with characteristics of both sexes to be registered as neither male nor female, creating a new category of ‘intermediate’ sex.  The law was created to take pressure off parents to decide on sex reassignment surgery to newborns. However, some campaigners claim the law doesn’t go far enough. One campaigner claims that the new law does not take into consideration the surgeries; another, that it doesn’t recognize who gets to make the definitive decision of what the sex will be. It is also unclear how this law will impact on marriage and partnership laws.

In my version of the event, I wanted to convey the stereotypical gender development of a boy and a girl and overlay these images with the audio from news clips and interviews regarding this news event. I felt this would create an interesting contrast, conflicting between the regular (male and female) and the taboo (intersex).

I began the sequence with a foetus developing in the womb, one clip depicting male genitalia and the next depicting female genitalia. I followed this sequence with a clip whereby the genitalia is neither male or female, but ambiguous and unclear. This indicates to the audience a conflict, something different and bizarre. I used audio from a BBC news report explaining what intersex is which I reinforced through a simply definition of the phrase in text, to make it clear to the viewer.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 15.26.16

Following from the foetal development sequence I wanted to convey the stereotypical gender development and gender roles society conform to.  I used a split screen and had my video clips displayed within a square frame. I wanted the square frame to reinforce a sense of conformity. Gender roles and the development of males and females fit quite comfortably in two very separate categories within society. Boys wear blue, girls wear pink, boys play outside and climb trees, girls dress up and eat cake and so on. Parents and society as a whole like to put people in boxes, especially gender and this is what I wanted to reflect.

As a result of this, I decided to show on the left side of the screen the development of a male and on the right side the development of a female from birth up to young adult. All the clips are framed in square boxes. Upon reflection I would have spent more time on the alignment of the boxes as the size varies in some clips but overall it’s not too noticeable. I used clips, which I felt were stereotypical of being male and female. For example, I incorporated clips from children programmes, Betty Boop representing the girls and Transformers representing the boys as well as other gender defining clips: girls dancing in dresses and a boy playing outside. This would show clearly to the audience how much we really do confine and restrict what is male and female.

To tell the news story I took audio from BBC news reports explaining the change in Germany’s laws offering the viewers the facts of the event as well as the voices of those who are intersex offering a more personal perspective. I used the story of Daniela Truffer who was surgically assigned her gender soon after birth. Born with ambiguous genitalia the doctors decided Truffer would be female, ‘They threw my testicles in the garbage bin’ I found quite brutal and definitive. Truffer is one of the few intersex people to take a public stance, which is why I wanted to include her story to convey this event. She also feels the law hasn’t gone far enough which she is campaigning for. I also included a clip from an interview with Claudia Kreuzer who is also intersex, ‘since you are the unknown gender, you are often refused at first sight. If humans cannot allocate something, they are often suspicious and careful.’ The boxes within the video reinforce how people allocate gender and sexes, relevant to this quote.  These audio clips from those who are intersex make the story more accurate as this is from the people who have lived with being intersex and so I feel are trusted sources.

I ended the video with the opinion of someone who recognizes the problem within the law change, a problem that I also pondered over. Because the sex is left undetermined I wonder who will actually decide the gender of someone who is intersex and when this would be defined. Will it be the intersex people themselves? Will it be their parents? Will it be nature and their physical development? Will it be when they are a child or a teenager? Dr. Michael Wunder reflects such questions and feels that it is unclear what happens to these ‘indeterminate’ babies when they’re older ending the video with him asking the question, “Are they obliged to decide whether to be male or female?”

All the video clips and audio used were licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons. I found the music used in the video on SoundCloud and is a remix of the theme tune from film, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’.

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