In class this week, we watched part of the film “Before Stonewall”, in connection to McClinktock’s book Imperial Leather. The film discusses the LGBT community before the Stonewall riots in 1969 when drag queens fought police in NYC. In the film, gay men described how men joined the war to be considered masculine, because stereotypes portrayed all gay men as feminine. Joining the war was a way to try and prove the stereotypes wrong. As stated by one particular woman who said her infantry was 97% lesbian, was approached by the President of the United States of the time to ask all of the lesbian women in her infantry to leave the war due to “popular demand”. The woman said to the President that her name would be first on the list of women discharged, and she explained that almost every single woman in the war at the time was lesbian and that there was no way to replace every single one of them. The President went on to dismiss the idea and basically told her “nevermind”. This was one of my favorite parts of the film that we watched in class, because I felt it was very liberating for the women of the time and a huge slap in the face to the President- it was clear that our country needed these women no matter if they were lesbians or not.
In connection to our reading from Imperial Leather, the military served as a function that forced the nation to represent women away from the “homemaker” stereotype and reorganized gender, because before women were allowed to enlist, the men were away at war while women await them at home. On page 354, masculinity is said to be linked to national power, however women being able to enlist in war represents how women were given this type of power that only men were granted before. Also, throughout her book, McClintock discusses how women are financially dependent on men and the power men have over women in history because women’s bodies are conditioned to be subordinate, however war represented a way for women to no longer be as financially dependent on men, as well as lesbians to gain economic independence.
In case anyone missed this film, here’s a quick glimpse: