#021: Expert Interview with Jodi Savitz [Podcast] Skip to the content

#021: Expert Interview with Jodi Savitz [Podcast]

Below are the items mentioned in this episode of the podcast.

You can contact Jodi here:

Listen to the episode by clicking the play button below!


Jodi’s current film project- Girl on Girl: an original documentary — Official Promo Trailer from Jodi Savitz on Vimeo.

 

Jodi’s First film- Yo Soy Así from Jodi Savitz on Vimeo.

Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the episode? No problem! Read the transcript below!

AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #21 – Jodi Savitz

Jenn T Grace:

You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, Episode 21.

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Well hello and welcome to Episode 21 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace. And today, Happy Halloween, just want to throw it out there. Happy Halloween to all of you. I am, as you are listening to this, I am actually en route flying back from Minneapolis, Minnesota, after having just attended the Out and Equal Workplace Advocate’s annual summit. And the workplace summit is amazing, and I believe in Episode 20 I talked a little bit about it. So I just want to throw out there that I am probably blogging away like a maniac right now while you are listening to this podcast.

So today I have a really packed episode for you. I had the great pleasure of talking with filmmaker, Jodi Savitz. She is currently working on a film called Girl on Girl. And it’s a documentary about the invisible feminine lesbian. And as you’re listening to this intro you might be thinking, ‘Well what does this have to do with business?’ And throughout the entire interview, we end up talking about workplace related issues and business issues, and how being an invisible feminine lesbian plays into all of the different facets of your life and being out at work is one of them.

So this interview is absolutely fantastic, and I really encourage you to take some sort of action after having listened to this interview, even if it’s just going to the website and watching the trailer for the film; because it really looks like it’s going to be a powerful film. So I highly encourage you to do that. And as you know, every episode you can find on the website at www.JennTGrace.com/021, for episode number 21.

So before I dive into the interview with Jodi, I do want to remind you of the course that launched in late September called ‘How to Authentically Market to the Gay Community.’ And if you are looking for additional information on this course I would highly encourage you to stop by www.AuthenticGayMarketing.com, and you can see all the information about the course itself; but essentially it’s a ten-part course with ten specific steps to take in order to really understand and learn how to communicate with the LGBT community. And then how to appropriately market to the LGBT community with of course the end goal being for you to dramatically increase the bottom line of your business by targeting this very loyal niche group of folks. So the course, it was a labor of love, it was really exciting to put together, and I’m getting some really good, positive feedback from it. So I would love for you to check it out, and if you go to www.AuthenticGayMarketing.com there’s a way that if you add your name and email address, you will get sent three videos that are completely free on how to better position yourself within in the community, how to market, how to do all that great stuff. So I highly encourage you to stop by and check it out.

So without further ado, let’s go talk to Jodi. So Jodi, I’ve given the listeners a brief overview of who you are and a little bit about your project, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your story, yourself, and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today?

Jodi Savitz:

Yeah, so how I got to where I am today. I started out going to Northwestern and majoring in Gender Studies in Theater. So I got very interested in the performance of gender and a lot of the theory that is being kind of touted right now about how queer theory has to do with performativity. So how somebody embodies their gender and how gender becomes this repeated action that’s done over and over and over again to the point where you don’t know where it started and where it ends; kind of like the chicken and the egg. So I became very involved in gender studies, and I decided because I’m originally from south Florida, to start talking to one of my advisors about a thesis on the Miami Latina lesbian community. And when I approached her about the thesis, I told her that in Miami a majority of the community was what I decided to call ‘Femme-Centric,’ and it was a word that she’d never like used before and no one’s really ever used that phrase like ‘Femme-Centric.’

Jenn T Grace:

It’s a good one.

Jodi Savitz:

I mean, and it was totally accurate because essentially what happens is that in Miami, because of the Latin influence- the Latina influence, women tend to be a little bit more hyper feminine than they are necessarily in other areas of the country or in any other lesbian communities. So I talked to her about that, and I brought up the point that because I came out in that community, I was able to navigate within it without feeling like I needed to adjust my sense of gender without feeling like the stereotype surrounding masculinity and lesbian identity were like something I had to give in to. I almost never even came to the surface, I never felt that need to look around and then necessarily adjust my sense of presentation due to other people being more masculine than me. I was just kind of able to be myself. So I spoke to her about that and originally I got a lot of pushback because there’s the sense that if you come out as gay, the new realization of your sexual identity in turn makes you re-evaluate your gender presentation to the point of it always needing to be this conscious thing. So if it’s a conscious performance, can gender presentation within like a feminine community ever be something that’s subversive?

Basically what happened was the department gave me pushback because the whole idea of queer and gender performance in a queer environment is that in order to be subversive, in order to make change happen, you have to be visible. So subversive invisibility are kind of like they go hand in hand, and that’s the theory that’s mostly promoted right now. So how can a community of lesbians in south Florida, in an area such as South Beach which is particularly- when you think about it, it’s particularly materialistic or particularly aesthetically upper middle class to high class, like that sense of when you walk into that community and you’re walking Lincoln Road, there’s a very particular sense of everyone looks a specific way and there’s this high femme kind of feeling from everybody. Regardless of whether you’re gay or not gay, there’s even- especially in the gay male community as well, there’s this extreme focus on aesthetic presentation.

So I kept talking about how even though the women in that community were particularly feminine, they were still- if they were a lesbian, people still recognized that the lesbian community existed, and was visible in their femininity. So if you saw for instance two women walking down Lincoln Road holding hands, whereas in any other area you might be like, ‘Oh they’re just friends,’ or you might not really process the fact that they’re gay. In that particular area of Miami, people did see that they were gay. There was this kind of pre- I’m not exactly sure how it got there in the very first place, but this kind of predisposed knowledge that yes, lesbians exist in this area, and yes lesbians do look feminine, and yes we take them seriously. Not even in a conscious recognition type of a way, but in a way that they’re just there.

Jenn T Grace:

Do you think it’s just a cultural thing? Just based on the demographics of the area? That’s it’s just something that everyone grows up knowing?

Jodi Savitz:

I think that the idea that their femininity is very, very important and valued- highly valued, is something that a lot of people grow up believing and knowing and being taught. And so as a result of that, by the time they come out, even if they kind of shift to be a little teeny bit more masculine, the idea of masculinity versus femininity is still very, very different than in other lesbian communities. A funny thing I like to talk about, and even though this particular woman wasn’t Latina, she came from Fort Lauderdale which is a similar aesthetic to Miami. Dani Campbell who was on Tila Tequila many, many years ago, it was a show about a bisexual girl named Tila Tequila who was choosing whether she was going to be with a man or a woman whatever; and then this woman Dani got to the very end, the final two people. And Dani is a lesbian, and she looked a little bit butch, but she would talk about her presentation even though she was aesthetically butch, as ‘futch’ and that’s kind of where that term came from. That femme-butch thing, so it’s like butch starting with an ‘F.’ And she was from the area. And I think that futch is a really good example of- not necessarily how people identify, because I don’t think the word is used so much as the idea; which is if you’re going to be butch, it’s almost like a femme presentation of what butch would be. It’s a feminization of the butch. And how that- well I’m going ahead of myself. But anyways- because there’s so much that goes kind of into that primary idea that I kind of had which was you can be feminine, you can walk down the street, you can seemingly look like everybody else and be subversive in your identity, because a feminine lesbian having to come out and that- almost that surprise factor and having to do it over and over and over again. And then especially if you can get to the point where you’re being recognized for being a lesbian in a certain space, even though you look like everybody else. That that’s the most subversive presentation of all, and then if that creates a sort of visibility that’s even more capable of changing minds because it’s accessible. Does that make sense?

Jenn T Grace:

It does, it’s really, really interesting that the way you just framed it up makes so much sense. And I think that people who are probably listening to this, this topic is going to be completely unfamiliar to them, so I know that just throwing out futch and talking about Tila Tequila, just the different things that you’ve already brought up, I think this is going to be one of those like, ‘Oh wow,’ type of moments for a lot of people listening, to think that feminine lesbians have to go through just as many struggles, if not more, than the rest of the LGBT community. So I think that what you’re saying in terms of like gaining that visibility of looking like your average person, nothing completely overtly gay looking about you, and being able to be recognized for being part of the LGBT community, even though you’re not fitting that stereotypical mold, is something that I would imagine there’s probably a lot of people like that within certain pockets of communities that are doing just that, but there are certainly by no means enough people doing it.

Jodi Savitz:

Well and I think that essentially there’s this idea that if you pass as heterosexual, if you are feminine then it’s easier. When you come out it’s easier, because you’re not getting this sort of overt discriminatory attitude toward your presentation. No one is stopping you on the street because you look like a man and being like, ‘You’re such a dike’ and like saying anything derogatory. Like you don’t that same sort of push back in the first place maybe, because you ‘don’t look gay.’ But at the same time, if you’re going to come out and if you’re going to stay out, there’s this lack of recognition for the fact that women have to do it every single day over and over and over again. And take a risk in a way when they come out. Because you’re judging the person you’re speaking to, maybe for the first time, and deciding, ‘Okay, am I going to use the pronoun she when referring to the person I was on the date with last weekend? Or am I just going to say I went on a date last weekend?’ Or if you have a partner and you have children for instance, do you say, ‘My wife and I went to Disneyworld with our children?’ Or do you say, ‘I went to Disneyworld and we were with our children,’ and do you just kind of avoid the whole idea of like who are you married to? And I’ve spoken to women who play that pronoun game and they talk about it as the ‘pronoun game.’ And it’s like if you pass, especially in a professional setting, women who are in business, women who are in finance, women who are in a world where it’s so male dominated and that if you’re a feminine woman the idea of you being a lesbian just doesn’t even computer, is it worth it? A lot of people have said to me, ‘Is it worth it?’ Do I think it’s worth it to have to come out? Is it worth it to have that conversation? Is it worth it to spend that extra five minutes clarifying like, ‘No, no, no. I actually meant my partner who I’m with, not my partner in business.’

Jenn T Grace:

It’s almost like you have to pick and choose your battles, and I know- and this is probably the same case for you, but I was actually just speaking at a conference a couple of weeks ago and one of the things that I was talking about is those dreaded assumptions. So when people just make the assumption that you are straight, and as most of my listeners know the name of my book is, ‘But You Don’t Look Gay,’ because of all of my experiences with having things like this happen. And a good example is when you’re checking out at a store- like you’re just getting groceries. All you want to do is get your stuff and get the hell out of the store, it’s nothing complicated. But then somehow the cashier makes some sort of assumption that then puts- they’re inflicting their assumption that you’re straight. And it’s like at that moment, all you want to do is get out of the store. But do you correct them? You know like for me it depends on what kind of mood I’m in. So sometimes- I would say the majority of the times I’ll have that conversation, but sometimes it’s like I just want to go home; I just want to be out of here. So it’s like that but in a business setting which makes it even more complex, because if it’s somebody that you’re doing business with on a regular basis, then of course it’s going to be more important that they know that aspect of who you are. But if it’s somebody in passing that you’re not really going to deal with again, is it worth your time to have to have that conversation?

Jodi Savitz:

Right. And then it becomes a question of, okay, well you’re tired, you don’t feel like talking about it, and then if we all feel like that then how do we move forward; especially in terms of like getting visibility. Like how do we do that as a community?

Jenn T Grace:

Exactly.

Jodi Savitz:

Like when there are moments when, no you don’t want to have to talk about it, you don’t want to have to say once again that yes I’m a lesbian and yes I’m feminine and oh, that’s great that I’m the first lesbian you’ve seen who look like me, and that’s great that my partner and I are the first couple that you’ve ever met that looks like us. But if you don’t feel like doing that, then how do come across, and how do we gain that traction to make people realize that we’re everywhere?

Jenn T Grace:

And one of the things that in your Indiegogo, the video for your funding of your new film, you were talking about- I don’t know if you were talking about being in a bar setting where it’s yourself and then maybe another feminine lesbian, but you’re not really sure, and it’s that ‘are you the straight friend’ factor as well. Why don’t you elaborate on that a little bit as well, because that goes into like a whole different aspect of just everyday living?

Jodi Savitz:

It does. So yeah, the idea of invisibility definitely spans both feeling invisible as a feminine lesbian to the straight world, and then feeling invisible as a feminine lesbian in the actual LGBTQ community. I think one of the hardest things for women who are just coming out and who are feminine, is you walk into a gay bar and you’re already feeling apprehensive, you’re already not sure if you should be there and if this space is for you. And then someone walks over to you and says, “Oh, are you straight?”

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Jodi Savitz:

And then it’s like, wait a second, really? Like I just built up all this courage to come out here tonight and I’m standing here alone because I don’t have any gay friends yet, and all I want to do is like be in a space where I feel comfortable in my own skin, and then the first thing that happens is someone walks over to you to see if you’re straight. And I think ultimately the women who come up to you and ask you that, it’s not because they’re trying to downgrade your sense of self, or your being there, but I think there’s this idea of needing to protect themselves from falling for a straight girl. So everyone wants to ask, “Are you straight?” Because just as heterosexual people make the assumption that feminine women are straight, so do gay women. And so you’re facing a whole other layer of defending yourself to people in the community who should be your biggest advocates.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. What I want to do is ask you about your ‘ah-ha’ moment. And I know before we hit record you were sharing with me an experience that you had while you were on campus at Northwestern. And I don’t know if that necessarily is part of your ‘ah-ha’ moment, but when did it hit you that what you’re doing now, which is really just kind of educating people around this lesbian invisibility; when did you realize that this is something that you had a calling for, and a passion for?

Jodi Savitz:

So definitely that moment when I- so at Northwestern University when I first started studying gender studies, I decided to go to a Rainbow Alliance event, which was at the very beginning of my freshman year. And I go to the beachfront where everyone kind of gathers for new student week events, and I sit down in this area that was designated for the rainbow event, and I looked and I knew where I was supposed to be and I sat down, and a few people came over to me and asked me if I was lost. And I didn’t even know how to respond. I was like, “No, I’m not lost. I’m here for the Rainbow event,” I had like a normal response. And then they said, “Are you sure?” Like you know this is a queer event, and it’s not just a rainbow- like I’m not sure if you know where you’re at. And it took like going back and forth and being like, “Well no I’ve been out since I was fourteen years old, and I date women, and how long have you been out?” And I almost felt like I needed to get in their face and defend myself. Like I’ve dated a lot of girls; have you? And that became like that first moment when I was at school that I realized I was going to be doing this for the next four years. And it was the first environment I’d ever been in that made me feel like I couldn’t be always who I was. I couldn’t always just be like my whatever feminine self. I never- because when I came out in Miami I didn’t have that pressure about changing my gender presentation. So I never even like went through any sort of a crisis surrounding that. So it wasn’t until I got to Northwestern that I started realizing that people have this, and it’s so constant, and it’s so pervasive in the community that women who come out in an environment where there is more of a butch femme aesthetic, or a more queer aesthetic. Queer meaning- I’m just going to clarify, and I don’t know if you go over it in some of your other podcasts. But when I say the word queer, my personal definition of it is anything other than heteronormative. So heteronormative being the normal according to heterosexual standards in our society; so like what a man looks like and what a woman looks like in the most ‘normal’ sense of those words to heteronormative society. So anything other than that would be then referred to as queer, but only necessarily in an aesthetic sense if you’re talking about gender presentation. So what doesn’t look normal in terms of gender, and what basically clashes with your biological sex versus your physical presentation. So that would be what I would say is gender queer. Something that is when you have your biological sex and your gender presentation, and they’re not consistent, so that would be gender queer. Anyways, so I kind of had that experience and then I started working in the gender studies department and on my thesis, and my ‘ah-ha’ moment came when I was doing research for my thesis on Latina lesbians and femininity, and I kept looking for research papers and philosophers and theorists, and gender studies professors in other areas; anything, I just wanted a research paper that talked about lesbian femininity in a way that looked at it from a standpoint of being strong, and a standpoint of being something that these women have to possess- you have to almost own your femininity and realize that every single day you’re going to be- defending yourself is kind of the wrong word. It’s almost like personally solidifying your identity as both a feminine woman and a lesbian, and being okay with that. Almost reconciling the two things on a daily basis.

Jenn T Grace:

Which is exhausting emotionally.

Jodi Savitz:

Right, exactly. And it is exhausting emotionally, and I think that that’s something that just absolutely has not been written about. The fact that it is exhausting emotionally to have to constantly reconcile your gender presentation and your sexual orientation. Whether it’s from like a feminine standpoint or a butch standpoint, it’s a constant emotional struggle to have to think about those two things. And then to have the third leg variable be people questioning you, is just a whole other level that nobody kind of takes into account when they realize that all these people come out as gay, and then have to navigate through this new world. Well what if you come out as gay, you’re navigating through that new world, your entire mindset has changed because you’re reorienting yourself to the world as a gay person. But if your outward appearance doesn’t change, how does anybody else know that?

Jenn T Grace:

That’s such an interesting dynamic when you think about it. And a lot of the things that are talked about on this particular podcast are really around being LGBT in the workplace, or being LGBT as a business owner, or any number of things that are really focused around business. And everything that you’re saying in terms of just day-to-day life for someone who’s LGBT, completely applies in the workplace as well. So that whole concept of having to reorient yourself as being someone who is an out LGBT person, but at the same time, like you’re saying, if your appearance isn’t changing then that adds a whole other layer of complexity to it. And even just as much so in the business setting as well, or the workplace. And there’s a lot of information around in terms of how much productivity for employees is reduced when they’re constantly trying to hide who they are. So it’s really interesting, everything that you’re talking about.

Jodi Savitz:

I think that particularly in a workplace setting it could be stressful, because it’s like that debate. It’s like even if you’re not hiding it, even if you’re out, it’s the fact that you could be questioned about it and challenged because you don’t look gay. And that constant challenge is something that people then are like, like we were talking about earlier, it’s like is it worth it to have to sit there and explain to somebody that this is a possible presentation for somebody who’s LGBTQ. And then- so for instance say somebody who started out at a business working somewhere, started out as being- or thinking that they were heterosexual, or just wasn’t out. And then in the course of working in that workplace came out, or started dating somebody, or had a reason then to want their identity to be validated by the people around them. Like I mentioned before, it’s as if- from a heterosexual perspective, if you’re not changing on the outside, how are we supposed to know that you’re going through all this stuff on the inside? How are we supposed to know that your entire perspective has changed because you’re gay? And so as the gay person you’re like, ‘Well I need to feel like this treatment has changed. I want people to treat me-‘ it’s not necessarily treat me differently, but see me differently once you come out. And I think that for somebody who changes their gender presentation, even in the slightest bit. So say a woman comes out and she cuts her hair. Or say a woman comes out and maybe she wears less skirt suits to work; she starts wearing more structured suits, pantsuits, whatever it may be. She starts- you know just holding herself maybe a little differently. Well then her co-workers see something different. And there’s more of an idea of, ‘Okay I get it, she came out, she’s reorienting herself as an LGBTQ person, she’s changed a little bit, it makes sense.’ But when it’s happening in the course of like a consistent gender presentation, it just becomes sort of unbelievable. And for someone who’s feminine, so someone who wears skirt suits and heels to work on a daily basis, and then all of a sudden that same woman who maybe had been dating a man when she started working there, begins dating a woman and wants to bring that woman to an event. Well then there’s this whole sense of like, ‘Wait a second, huh?’ Because if she didn’t change, the skepticism regarding her identity is just so much easier to be skeptical of it; it’s so much easier to be like, ‘Oh, she’s just experimenting. She’s not really like that. She’s just going through a phase.’ And that same idea can be in any workplace environment or other real work environment. But I think particularly in the workplace to have to go into that atmosphere with the mindset that people are looking at you with this preconceived notion that the feminine lesbian identity is something that’s stigmatized and not really legitimate and kind of like almost as if you’re bisexual; not that bisexual isn’t a legitimate identity, but that you couldn’t just be gay. That could be very difficult.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah and it’s so interesting about the being questioned piece of things, because I can remember coming out at a previous workplace, and I had a picture of myself and my girlfriend at the time on the desk, and I would still get questioned. And I don’t even consider myself to be overly feminine but yet, I was questioned on a regular basis and it comes back to that how many times you’re going to have to come out and how exhausting is it to continuously be coming out, even when you have a frickin’ picture of your and your partner on your desk, but think of all the ways that I was distracted from actually doing the job at hand. Like you’re there to work, not to be defending your sexuality.

Jodi Savitz:

Right, you are there to work and not to be defending your sexuality, and it’s something that people just don’t- people don’t take it into account that they’re saying what they’re saying. I think a really good example actually, is when I moved to New York- so I aside from doing filmmaking I do a lot of different side jobs, which is like what a lot of filmmakers do, to afford to do what they’re passionate about. So I started working in promotional modeling, which is really a- you might be familiar with it, you’re in a business atmosphere because there are a lot of tradeshows. But promotional modeling, that whole industry is when you get hired to essentially be a spokesperson for a business. And I would get hired to do anything from working with- I worked on the Intrepid as a veteran’s affairs representative, even though I had no idea what I was doing.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Jodi Savitz:

I worked for Red Bull, I’ve worked for Vitamin Water, I’ve worked for Harley Davidson. Not in the sense that I was just standing there being a model, but where you actually had to go out and be like a representative spokesperson for these companies. Most of those jobs would last maybe, the longest like two weeks, but then some of them were maybe only like one or two days. And I would go and I would do something for a couple of hours, they’d give me a script and I’d leave. And generally I would encounter maybe like five new people on a job. So let’s say I had a boss and a couple other people working with me, and we’d all go together to an event. And so you’re sitting with a group of new people every time you go to a job, and generally you have a lunch hour so you’re eating with these new people and you’re engaging with these people that you basically have never met before and you’re probably not going to see again. And you have like two or three hours of downtime over the course of a workday, where you have conversations. And almost every single job I went on, you start talking about yourself and so the first thing you say is like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m from here and I live here, and I’m dating this person, we’ve been together for this many years,’ and at the time I was dating my ex-girlfriend and so pretty much consistently I would bring up the fact that like- you know because everyone brings up like, ‘Oh I have a partner, I have a boyfriend, I have a this, I have a that,’ anytime that I would bring up that I had a girlfriend or that my girlfriend and I had just come back from vacation or whatever the case may have been, I would get like this very immediate reaction like, ‘Huh? What did you say?’ And it would feel like a double take. And I’d anticipate it because after the first few jobs I had I knew that that was going to happen again. And so it was almost like, ‘Okay at what point in the conversation am I going to subtly integrate the fact that I’m gay?’ Because it almost became an interesting experiment to see like how many people that I would meet, that were like these new people, would say, ‘Oh, I’ve never met a feminine lesbian, or someone who looks like you who’s gay, who’s open about it.’ And it really became like this thing that I would go on a job and then I’d wind up telling my entire coming out story over and over and over again. That was another part of the ‘ah-ha’ moment because that was before I started officially working on this film, I was doing these jobs so frequently and realizing that like as soon as you really do sit down with somebody, because I was in the situation like I had to sit down with these people anyways, I was going to be stuck on a job all day that I may as well have the conversation, why not talk about it? So I would have these conversations, and most of the time even if someone who may have been like a little bit uncomfortable with the idea at the beginning, would give me kind of like pushback, by the end of the conversation it usually turned into, ‘Wow I’ve never looked at it that way. I’ve never seen it from the perspective of somebody who has to come out every single day.’

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really powerful. Like it’s incredibly powerful that you are the voice, and maybe the first- I don’t want to say the first line of defense but that’s kind of how I think of it in my head. But for people who have no experience with someone who’s in the LGBT community. You’re that first impression that some people have; or you’re the first impression of what a feminine lesbian looks like. So I think that in that regard, you have an incredible gift to educate people on a level that they can understand.

Jodi Savitz:

I think that that’s something that I kind of began to realize. It’s that if you can talk to somebody about this issue, and it’s not even as an issue, just as something that’s more about you feel the way you do about yourself, and if you told me that you were black- if you told me you were half black, but you look white, I would take you seriously because you just told me that. So if I tell you that I’m a lesbian, but I don’t look like your idea of what a lesbian looks like, then you should take me seriously too.

Jenn T Grace:

I absolutely agree.

Jodi Savitz:

And it’s such a simple concept that people just don’t think about. It’s not that people don’t want to take it in and accept it, it’s more that no one really thinks about it.

Jenn T Grace:

So we are going to take a quick break to hear a word from the sponsors of this podcast, the Human Performance Academy.

Alright, now let’s get back to the interview with Jodi.

Jodi Savitz:

And it’s interesting because in the media world for instance, or when you watch TV, most of the lesbians who you do see on television nowadays and this is actually an interesting thing. Because most of the lesbians who are represented in the media are feminine with the exception of say Ellen DeGeneres, but she is her real person on TV; she plays who she is in “real life.” So besides Ellen DeGeneres, when you look at television characters, for instance the women who were the characters on The L Word who were all feminine women from LA; that was their plot point. Or you look at the show that just went on that Jennifer Lopez is producing, The Fosters. Well both of those women are presented as feminine lesbians. Or you look at Callie in Arizona, very good example. So you look at all these characters that are on TV and who are playing lesbians, and they are feminine. Even if they’re not super, super, super feminine, most of them blend in; and what I say is passing- they pass as straight, they pass as heterosexual. So if you saw them on the street, you didn’t know they were gay, if they weren’t wearing a sticker on their chest, you’d probably think they were straight, just because that’s where our mind goes. So if that’s the case, right? If that’s who we’re seeing on network television, then why is it still the case that our stereotype of lesbians is that they’re butch?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s another good point.

Jodi Savitz:

And it’s also another one that people don’t really think about because I guess when you start asking people- I did an experiment, and I have a whole video of this. And I went up to the High Line which is kind of the bigger tourist attraction now in New York City, but it’s an old train track that was converted into this beautiful kind of walkway park area; so there are a lot of people from a lot of different places kind of just wandering around. And I went there and filmed people, asking them, “What do you think a lesbian looks like? What stereotypes do you have of a lesbian?” And then I had groups of photos of four women, so three groups of four women, and in those photos three of them would be characters who are in my film who are lesbians and one would be a straight woman, one of my friends. And then in another group three of them would be straight women and then one of them would be a character in my film. And I would ask people to pick out the lesbian in the picture, or pick out the straight girl in the picture.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Jodi Savitz:

It was really funny because people don’t even realize what they’re stereotyping until you show them these pictures of all these different feminine women, and you’re like, “Wait, which one of the feminine women is gay?” And they’d look at a picture- two of the girls from one of the groups had leather jackets on and both of the girls with leather jackets were straight. And most of the people picked out one of the girls with the leather jackets as the lesbian. And it’s like, “Well so why did you pick them?” “Because they’re wearing a leather jacket.”

Jenn T Grace:

And why do they think that? Oh because the media says so.

Jodi Savitz:

Right. But then, you look in the media and you’re like, “Wait a second, no they don’t say so.” The lesbians that are on TV don’t really look like that. They actually look like very feminine.

Jenn T Grace:

So when did that dynamic shift happen? Because I think if we look back at characters way back when, perhaps they were more butch and then slowly they feminized over the years. But of course me even saying that, I can’t think of anyone in particular. But I think of like Roseanne with Jackie. I don’t know if she was ever supposed to be a lesbian in the show or not, but to me she was always portrayed as if she were one, whether or not it was actually addressed.

Jodi Savitz:

It’s interesting, like when did that shift happen? I think probably like in the early 2000’s. Like post Will and Grace, when it was acceptable to put an openly gay person on television, and when that openly gay person was supposed to be an acceptable character; and I say ‘acceptable’ in the most hesitant of ways. That’s when I believe that most of the aesthetic changed or shifted toward these women being particularly feminine. If you do look at some of the theory that has been written, which is interesting, like what has been written about and what hasn’t been written about? There’s stuff that’s been written about that’s like the only reason that the lesbians who are on TV are feminine is because we want to appeal to a heterosexual audience, which makes sense. And then the feminine lesbian is not just attractive to- I mean lesbians, because they’re not really worried about that. It’s attractive to the normal straight male or a straight woman who would look at that woman and be able to relate. So they’re putting those women there because it’s easier to, on a whole, relate to that aesthetic of femininity. So this makes sense, this is something that I feel like makes total sense to anybody. Yeah, why put a feminine woman there? Why put a pretty woman on TV? Because everyone wants to look at a pretty face. So that’s the idea behind that. So then you have to then kind of consider, okay so why are these butch stereotypes so pervasive, so intense? So completely like you can’t do anything about it; it’s like what do you do? Well it’s just because it’s quite simple, how are you supposed to believe that these- just like you’re watching a TV show, and you look at the characters on the TV show and you’re like, “All these women are so beautiful.” In real life, everybody isn’t that beautiful, everybody is normal looking. Well what’s normal? So for gay characters- sorry I don’t know if you can hear that beeping in the background.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s the joys of living in the city, right?

Jodi Savitz:

I don’t know how long it’s going to take for that to subside. But what I was going to say is just, so if you’re looking at gay characters and you look at these women who are pretty lesbians on TV. It’s natural for I think anybody to assume that just like the straight people who are on TV who are pretty, if those people don’t really exist in real life in the same context, then why would the lesbians exist in real life in the same context? They’re fictional characters, the only real lesbian you’re seeing on TV is Ellen and she’s not feminine. And you never really think of Portia as a lesbian, you think of Portia as Ellen DeGeneres’ wife. Or you used to think of her as Ellen DeGeneres’ girlfriend. But in and of herself people never really spoke about Portia as a lesbian.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s so interesting.

Jodi Savitz:

So you look at these characters and you say, “Okay, yeah they’re pretty lesbians on TV but do they really exist in real life?” No, just like the pretty women on the other TV show don’t really exist in real life; they’re just pretty people who are on television because they’re pretty people.

Jenn T Grace:

And they get ratings.

Jodi Savitz:

So how do you then go back into real life and find the lesbians? Well it’s just easy because you can look around and be like, “Oh well that woman looks different,” point to her because she looks a little bit different, she looks a little bit more masculine, that makes so much more sense. And then you can identify the image of difference, the other as who that group is. It’s still much easier to say, “Okay, well yeah, that woman looks different, that woman has a shorter haircut, that woman wears boyish clothes, so obviously she’s different, therefore she’s a lesbian.” And if you can’t see all the feminine women that exist who make up, whether or not- because we don’t know, we don’t have any sort of like statistics surrounding this, but we don’t know like if the majority of women in our community are feminine or endogenous or butch, but regardless we know that a lot of them are navigating within our world and passing as straight. So how do you come out? How do make that portion of the community be visible when they are just basically plainly invisible? And that’s the question.

Jenn T Grace:

And I think that that’s an absolute perfect segway into my asking about your film itself. So I know that you started working on it not too long ago, and that you have a- is it Indiegogo Campaign happening right now?

Jodi Savitz:

We have an Indiegogo Campaign happening, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

So yeah, why don’t you- so for anyone who’s listening to this, and now I think you’ve given a really clear picture I think of the struggles of the invisible lesbian. So maybe if you could tell us a little bit more about the film itself, what the end result from producing the film- what your plan is for that end result to be. And how anyone listening could help you make that happen.

Jodi Savitz:

Fantastic. So the film itself, it’s titled Girl on Girl and it’s about feminine lesbian invisibility; this whole subject that we’ve been talking about. And essentially what we’re doing is we have a very diverse cast of women from women in their early twenties- a girl in her early twenties, to a woman in her late sixties. And the idea is that women in completely different social atmospheres, completely different contexts in terms of the area of the country that they live in, in terms of the socioeconomic class that they navigate within, in terms of race, and even in terms of degree of femininity; are all experiencing a similar issue with being taken seriously. So for instance, the youngest character right now in the film is a girl who is currently a student at NYU. And this student left her last university because she was being ostracized for being a feminine lesbian by the queer students in her university. And she’s bi-racial, she looks- for all intents and purposes she looks ‘Hispanic.’ And she went to NYU basically because she wanted to find a more accepting LGBTQ community and feel like as a feminine lesbian she could fit in there. Versus in her other school when she was feminine, she was basically told by other people that if she wanted to objectify herself by being feminine, and being a feminine lesbian, then they were going to objectify her. And they sent nasty things over an email of like photos of different body parts that they’d secretly take of her like in a bathroom. Like basically teasing her, bullying her, for making her- like being aesthetically very feminine and loving clothes. Her mom’s in fashion, she loves fashion, so she dresses kind of to the nines all the time; she loves wearing really interesting clothing. So she basically got made fun of because of that and left that other school. So that’s one storyline. Another storyline that’s really, really interesting is a woman who was in the Air Force and she’s originally from Utah, she’s Mormon. And she spent time in the military and she was in the military during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and had gotten- someone accused of homosexual conduct and it had gone up to one level and then it went to the next level, and she was almost at the point of being discharged- dishonorably discharged. But then essentially because she was feminine they were able to say like, “Oh, you don’t really look gay, you don’t seem gay. We can keep this kind of on the downlow, we don’t have to worry about it. You’re not going to get discharged.” They were able to kind of subtly push it under the table because she didn’t seem gay.

Jenn T Grace:

That is terrible.

Jodi Savitz:

Well and it’s interesting because it’s like she didn’t want to be discharged.

Jenn T Grace:

No, of course not.

Jodi Savitz:

She wanted to stay. Of course not, right? So before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell I mean this was like- is it a blessing in disguise? Like what was going on? And she had to deal with a lot of emotional issues surrounding that because it was like she basically was able to stay because she didn’t seem gay. And then she finished her tour and is no longer in the military, but she has issues with that; and so that’s another story. And now that woman, so she lived in Utah, she’s in Key West now, but she has a really interesting story. Another one used to live on- the older woman in the film, she used to live on a lesbian commune in Vermont, and where they kind of as fast the ideology that like you had to be very androgynous, and this is in the ’80s. And so she talks about this moment when she went somewhere and she really wanted to put on a pair of earrings, and she felt very guilty for wanting to put on a pair of earring; and that was like the moment that she realized that her femininity wasn’t just about like these patriarchal paradigms that have caused her to want to wear earrings and lipstick. It was actually just like a sense of self that wanted to wear earrings and lipstick, and she was feeling stifled. So she kind of talks about that, and the idea that even when you’re trying to resist these things that you’re told are materialistic, you’re told are men wanting you to look a certain way. So as a lesbian she’s like, “Okay, well I’m going to resist that” then all of a sudden it’s like, “No, actually I really do love feeling pretty,” whatever that means. Whatever ‘feeling pretty’ means. Why is that wrong? And so I think that that’s something that we start talking about with the characters in the film. It’s like why is it wrong to want to feel pretty according to what is heteronormative? What are heteronormative standards of femininity? We all grew up in these environments with the same societal norms put upon us and we’re all pressured to look a certain way and be a certain way, and you can’t escape that. So nobody’s arguing with the fact that a lot of these things are frustrating in general; I mean this is what feminism is all about, is that you shouldn’t have to look a certain way or be a certain weight or wear a certain outfit to be a beautiful woman, you can be who you are. But why is it for some odd reason, like so fundamentally more complicated if you are a lesbian and subscribe to some of these heteronormative ideas of what pretty is? Why is that so complicated and unbelievable?

Jenn T Grace:

I would imagine that all of these questions that you’re raising, to some degree, will be- maybe not answered per say in the film, but will certainly be explored in great detail. So I think that anyone listening to this, they should have a vested interest for you to be able to get the funding necessary in order to- so they can see all of this stuff. Because I know that just by watching the trailer alone, I was super excited about what you were up to.

Jodi Savitz:

It would be incredible to get the funding. I think that at this point we’re supported by New York Foundation for the Arts, and they’re our fiscal sponsor, but that doesn’t mean that they’re giving us any funding. What it basically means is that New York Foundation for the Arts is behind us as a nonprofit organization. So donations that are made directly to the film be tax deductible, same thing with in kind donations to the film. So if you have like a camera you want to donate or happen to- anything like that. Those types of donations are also like super appreciated. But at the moment the Indiegogo Campaign, we’re trying to raise $100,000 to get through the first phase of production. And that will take us through a majority of the filming process. We’ve essentially at this point, we’ve accessed all of the characters that we want, we’ve done a lot of interviewing. Just a lot of like- so the casting process was talking to a lot of different women, going out, doing these initial interviews. Some of them are in the promotional video. And in choosing the women from those videos based on their stories, and then we have it kind of set up so we can follow them for the next year. But being able to follow them for a year is completely and totally dependent on funding, and being able to travel and capture their stories. Because you want to be able to capture someone’s story, not just once but at maybe two or three different points throughout the year as something progresses. One of the families in our film is planning on having another baby so for instance we want to be able to capture the different moments along the line that that’s happening. But yeah, so that’s where we’re at. I think that the film ultimately will bring to light a lot of these issues in a way that’s really accessible because it’s not necessarily about discussing the theory, like I am right now, some of these things. Like it’s not that complicated really. Because you put these women on film, and just by watching them, and just by looking at their lives, you’re able to look at them and be like, “Oh yeah, they exist. Oh yeah they’re my next door neighbor and my co-worker and my friend.” And like it seems so simple, but there just has never been any documentary done ever that’s taken feminine lesbian identity and just talked about it. And just put it on film. And just kind of brought it to life and called attention to the subject matter. Because most of the films that are about the LGBTQ community, up until this point, have been mostly about bullying or gay marriage or gay adoption; much more issue focused. Much more about ‘let’s get accepted because we’re no different from you and what we want. We want our civil rights.’ Much more civil rights based. And this isn’t necessarily about civil rights. I mean yes, everybody- we want them in your identity no matter who you are. So it’s more a film about universal empathy and trying to find ways to fit universally to people’s just sense of self, than necessarily a gay issue. Does that make sense?

Jenn T Grace:

It totally does, universal empathy is such a- kind of a great way to end it. So why don’t you just tell everyone how they can get more involved and where they can find you online.

Jodi Savitz:

Well to find more information about the film, you can go to www.girlongirlmovie.com, or you can find us on Facebook which is www.Facebook.com/girlongirlmovie. Everything- all of our URLs are Girl on Girl Movie, we got very lucky and were able to get that.

Jenn T Grace:

Nice.

Jodi Savitz:

So you can Google us; if you Google ‘Girl on Girl’ we pop up right underneath Playboy. It’s pretty neat. From the business perspective, I think this is something that’s been really interesting. Is seeing how many people actually are very, very interested and invested in the film. Because I didn’t go about it with- so I created the Facebook fan page thinking that yeah, we were going to get a few thousand likes because it’s an interesting topic and people from the LGBTQ community will relate to it. But between March and now, the Facebook page has grown to over 15,000 fans. And it isn’t because we’re doing a ridiculous amount of marketing. It’s because the marketing that we are doing I think is so targeted. And it’s so specific to finding people who relate to this kind of idea of like universal empathy I think. And like finding communities of people who- I don’t know, it’s been an interesting process. Seeing how many people are into it, I guess. Almost like in a pleasant surprise.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s exciting.

Jodi Savitz:

Because I knew that the subject matter was important, and I knew that people would be interested to begin with. But really seeing the interest has been awesome; and getting letters from people just saying, “This is something that I relate to,” it’s something that’s never been talked about. And I don’t think- I mean there are a million subjects that haven’t been spoken about, but at the same time it’s kind of interesting to hit on something that people can genuinely say, “I’ve never had a conversation about this topic before, and it completely relates to my life.”

Jenn T Grace:

Well it’s partially your social media efforts and the stuff that you’re doing in terms of being that really super targeting, the reason why I found you on Twitter, and I’m super excited to have invited you on to share your story and share the story of your film. And I’m hoping that a good amount of my listeners will take some sort of action by stopping by and checking out the trailer because I really think it’s worth it, and I’m super excited for the success that’s bound to come from this. So thank you so much, seriously, for taking the time today to chat with us. I think this has been very educational and enlightening.

Jodi Savitz:

Thank you so much for having me.

Jenn T Grace:

Alright, that wraps up episode number 21 of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jodi Savitz. It was a really interesting interview for me, because we did come from the angle of speaking with a filmmaker which was a first of its kind on this podcast, which is always exciting. I think we all have to remember that just because people are in creative fields or are filmmakers, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a business story to tell. So I think this was really interesting, very educational and I was absolutely honored to have her join us. So if you loved this podcast, because I know you did, if you loved it I would love for you to head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/love and what that will do, is it will pre–populate a tweet to send out to all of your followers, telling them that you loved the podcast and you would love for them to check it out.

So as always I sincerely appreciate your listenership, and I hope you have a fantastic Halloween and I look forward to talking to you in the next episode. Have a good one, bye bye.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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