“Man for a Day”
Diane Torr is a legendary gender activist and performance artist. For the past thirty years, she has focused on an exploration of the theoretical, artistic as well as the practical aspect of gender identity. Katarina Peters casted and observed a Berlin workshop taught by Diane Torr, in which a group of open-minded women came together to discover the secrets of masculinity and to find answers to the questions of what makes a man a man and a woman a woman? When and where is gender identity formatted? How much is nature and how much nurture? Each of Torr’s workshops represents an open-ended laboratory experiment in social behavior in which the question is posed. The viewer receives an intimate view into the lives of the participants before, during and after their transformation to newly found men with five women testing their masculinity for one day.
Susann, Theresa, Eva-Marie, Valley and Rosa Maria register for the workshop for a day performance artist Diane Torr. The focus is on the question of where and when sexual identity is manifested, and whether it can be used in other gestures to break through these role patterns. The women dressed up first. Susan becomes Andi, Theresa to Walter, Eva-Marie to Christian, Valley became Tal and Rosa Maria Marco became Ramos. All five women in the documentary seem to have a problem with their female identity and two of them have had bad experiences with men. The others feel themselves pressed into a female stereotype, which they do not want to deliver.
Se see that gender studies are not about transsexuality. They are about the role models that prevail in our society of man and woman. Diane Torr has been following these questions for many years and is trying to get closer to gender roles in her own special way. In workshops she teaches what a man is, how he moves, and what gestures he takes. The filmmaker Katarina Peters who has been friends with Torr for many years, has accompanied her at one of these workshops in Berlin with the camera.
Torr understands identity (and therefore gender identity) as an artificial construct and that “male” behaviors are only available to women theoretically. In her workshops Torr moves from theory to practice. The motivations of the five women are very different: Susanna has been a beauty queen and when asked at one of the pageants into which role she would like to enter for a day, she answered male. Tal is the opposite of Susanna and was often already perceived by her environment as “masculine” and we learn that she is a real sissy. Eva-Maria, who comes from Munich, is a policy advisor and moves in a world dominated by men. Theresa is the mother of three sons and her husband left her making her a mother and a father to her children. Rosa Maria, who was already twice in a women’s shelter because of violent partners and is well versed in the macho culture.
The first thing that the women do is exchange their clothing for its male counterparts and then go out on the street dressed as men. By the time the experiment is over, not all participants are so convinced that it is really easier for them to be able to be a man for a day or a week, but they now know how it feels, more or less.