“You’re too pretty to be gay.” “You don’t look gay.” “You’re a lesbian? But you’re so girly!”
They are words that lesbian women who present as feminine are all too familiar with hearing, and not just from the heterosexual world, but from those within the LGBT community as well. They are words that, while not necessarily meant with ill intentions by the speakers, nonetheless come with a sting. And they are words that have left so many women grappling with their identities in a culture that still equates femininity as being something for the male gaze. But what does it mean to look like a lesbian, anyway? Despite the queer mission of being inclusive and readily accepting, identifying and presenting yourself as a “femme” lesbian is still viewed as somehow equal with heteronormativity. In her documentary film Girl on Girl, Jodi Savitz reveals the feminine experience, following the lives of six lesbian-identified women who embrace their femininity while struggling to be visible in a society that has all but rendered them invisible.
The title, Girl on Girl, is intentionally provocative. We know all too well what is likely to come up in a Google search – porn for the male gaze, where feminine-presenting women are merely sexual props, lacking in their own desire. Savitz turns that paradigm on its head, both in the documentary itself and through its greater effect on society. Girl on Girl is the exact opposite of porn; it is an intimate portrayal of humanity, provoking thought, reflection, empathy, questioning, tears, laughter, hope, dismay. From a homeless teen who was rejected by her family for being gay, to a feminist activist who shares the painful memory of losing custody of her daughter, to a woman who survived “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we are shown their unique struggles, and the emotional consequences of feeling delegitimatized.
Savitz both filmed and collected home footage of the women over the span of three years, and the documentary was four years in the making. Having experienced her own issues with feeling invisible as a feminine lesbian, the filmmaker knew that there must be other women out there who felt the same way – invisible. Through her quest to find them and render them visible to the world, she accomplished much more than a single documentary; she started an entire movement. The Girl on Girl Facebook page alone has over 440,000 fans, all of which were obtained organically. But what should really make women smile – and this fact has made my day everyday since I found out – guess what comes up on the first page of Google when you type in the words “girl on girl?” Not just porn. Let that sink in for a while.
Girl on Girl is sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, and premiered last weekend in NYC. The film was previously screened at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the St. Louis International Film Festival. It is co-produced by Dahlia Heyman and Lauren Savitz. You can watch the trailer below, and stay current on screenings and the DVD release on the official Girl on Girl website. Join thousands of women who follow Girl on Girl on Facebook where we can make each other visible again, and please donate to their Indiegogo campaign HERE. You can also make a 100% tax-deductible donation through NYFA HERE.