Screenings for Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism
Directed by Gregorio Davila
Produced by Mario J. Novoa, Film Bliss Studios
Running time: 38 minutes
City of West Hollywood “One City One Pride”
Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism plays in Latinx Ladies Outfest 2017
Tickets for 2017 Outfest Film Festival : Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism
plays in Latinx Ladies
July 12, 2017 715pm at the Director Guild of America – Theater DGA 2
Rediscovering Jean Cordova: World Premiere at One City One Pride Screening by Joe Castel from Adelante Magazine
Shakespeare once famously chided, “Get thee to a nunnery!” But in the mid-1960s, Jean Cordova did just the opposite, fleeing the nunnery to find her inner self. But unlike Maria Von Trapp, she wasn’t running away from a bunch of club wielding Nazis. Instead, this brazen Chicana LGBT activist did the chasing and stood up to her homophobic oppressors empowered with nothing more than self-awareness. The former nun claims she was able to find her higher self by “kicking the habit” and embracing a sexual revolution that kept reinventing itself, as well as redefining her own sexual identity.
Director Gregorio Davila captures a poignant portrait of the native Los Angeleno in the documentary, Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies, and Feminism. This year’s West Hollywood’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival will screen the documentary at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers on June 29 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with the director and Cordova’s partner, Lynn Harris Ballen.
From sleeping with Mother Superior’s best friend at the convent to heading up a national lesbian magazine, Cordova chronicles her life in unabashed archival footage from the 1980s up to 2016. Through the continuous reexamination of politics and sexuality, she carved out a unique pathway to her destiny in the LGBT movement.
After leaving the nunnery, Cordova becomes disillusioned with the carefree lesbian lifestyle of softball, beer, bars and balling. She asks herself, “Is this all there is to gay life?” The UCLA student challenges her intellectual side and joins the first lesbian organization, the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), only to realize that the women in the homophile movement are more like the Daughters of the American Revolution in their conservative thinking. Still, she runs for the organization’s Presidency and wins. However, after taking DOB members to an anti-war rally with a group of her Marxist leaning lesbian friends, Codorva is pegged as a radical, and finally voted out of DOB, much to her delight, but not before she revolutionizes their newsletter, The Ladder.
Cordova believes the outdated periodical needs a feminist facelift and takes the newly named Lesbian Tide to international status, becoming the go-to-guide for intellectual feminism.
When Cordova ditches DOB, she joins up with lesbian feminists at the Los Angeles Women’s Center. It’s there she discovers that it’s disempowering to be butch or fem and that identifying with the masculine is the worst because it’s aligning with the patriarchal oppressor. “That was a big sin,” she confesses. So in the closet with her habit, went the boots, ties and anything else that would identify her as a man.
It seems that for most of her life, Cordova is constantly reexamining herself and her position in the movement. She even justifies the break lesbians had with gay men in the early 70s, claiming they needed alone time to figure things out. She confides that feminism unfortunately tended to lump straight and gay men together, where as earlier in the movement, “we saw gay men as our brothers.”
However it would take Anita Bryant, a national commercial Florida Orange Juice peddler and former beauty queen to bring the two sexes together again in order to fight California’s Proposition 6, more commonly known as the Briggs Initiative. The initiative, a national homophobe campaign started by Bryant (of all people), would have banned gays and lesbians, and possibly anyone who supported gay rights from working in California public schools.
Cordova jokes that Bryant ruined the summer of 1978 as lesbians and gays dropped their differences and diligently worked together with Harvey Milk to beat the statewide discriminatory legislation. Cordova complains that there wasn’t any time for the beaches or softball that year as they poured all their energies into lobbying various organizations, politicians and celebrities to join their cause. In the end, their sacrificed summer paid off as they defeated Proposition 6 at the polls and scored a big fat WIN!
What’s satisfying about Davila’s documentary is that it reclaims a bit of our history. It demonstrates that Harvey Milk wasn’t the only one out their fighting the system in the 1970s. A Latina stepped up to the plate and took a swing at sexism and homophobia in the early years of the LGBT rights movement. Most importantly, we have a role model to learn from and be inspired from, because, shamefully, the Anita Bryant’s of the nation are on the rise again and unfortunately, Cordova is unable to shake up the system, as the feminist rabble rouser passed away last year at the age of 67.
However, at the end of Davila’s film, Cordova looks directly into the camera and passes the torch. “I want you to know, that I told you this story, so you too can start a movement. Come up with a creative idea that grips people and you too can start a movement. And tonight’s creative idea will be to march down Santa Monica Blvd. So march with me.”
The City of West Hollywood, through its One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, celebrates pride in 2017 with the festival theme “Go West”. One City One Pride comprises mostly free interactive, performing and visual arts events between May 22 (Harvey Milk Day) through the end of June Pride month. For more information on Jeanne Cordova’s documentary or One City One Pride, visit: http://weho.org/pride