BERLIN (AFP) ― Does the world treat men and women differently? Drag king pioneer Diane Torr not only believes so but in an experiment in front of the camera empowers women to test out her theory.
The documentary “Man For A Day,” which has premiered at the Berlin film festival, follows a group of very different women who sign up for a workshop on how to assume the persona of a man.
“Gender is a culture-given thing, it’s not natural,” German director Katarina Peters told AFP of her just over 90-minute film which is at times surprising, touching and funny.
With convincing effect, the women are quickly transformed into the “man” of their choice after choosing a set of clothes down to the braces, shoes, hats and glasses, before learning how to walk, talk and not smile so much.
Even the missing parts of the male anatomy are covered ― the women make their own penises out of cotton wool and condoms while binding their breasts and sticking stubble on their faces.
And they go out on to the Berlin streets to discreetly observe, noting how men hold a cup or cigarette, sit or stand. “Men are quite an easy spectacle because they are not used to being watched,” Torr says in the film.
But she stresses it is not done disrespectfully but as a way to gather material ― her own male persona is Danny King, who is married with children and whose appearances help inspire the other women.
Torr, a performance artist and gender activist, originally hails from Scotland but moved to New York where she worked as a go-go dancer before starting her Man For A Day workshops in 1989.
Since then she has taken them to Europe, North America, Brazil, Istanbul and Delhi.
The process is not just about becoming a man, she explains in the film, but about “becoming more” and improving oneself. And it is not just an act ― she stands her ground when a couple of the women want to hide their hair in their cap arguing simply that is not what men do.
Among the group is Susann, a former beauty contest queen, who says she finds men “a big book with question marks.” When she comes home as Andi her parents at first are highly amused but when she suggests she might stay a man, her mother is quick to want her pretty daughter back.