The Aggressives

A number of interesting documentaries examine women who refuse to fit comfortably into traditional gender roles; Gabriel Baur's VENUS BOYZ (2003) explored the "drag king" phenomenon, in which biological females adopt male personae, while GENDERNAUTS (2000) profiled women on their way to becoming men via hormone treatments and gender-reassignment surgery....read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

A number of interesting documentaries examine women who refuse to fit comfortably into traditional gender roles; Gabriel Baur's VENUS BOYZ (2003) explored the "drag king" phenomenon, in which biological females adopt male personae, while GENDERNAUTS (2000) profiled women on their way to becoming men via hormone treatments and gender-reassignment surgery. The six New Yorkers profiled in photographer-turned-filmmaker Daniel Peddle's fascinating documentary are happy with what God gave them — with a few interesting exceptions who only prove how fluid gender can be. They're proud to be women, identify themselves as lesbians and, despite certain appearances to the contrary, have no desire to become male. They do, however, adopt many of the behaviors associated with macho men, hence the descriptive tag "Aggressive." Octavia is a perfect example: Looking every inch a man, she's nevertheless an uninhibited gay woman who aggressively pursues what she wants — feminine-acting women. Muscular Marquise could pass for a teenaged boy, particularly when she drops her voice and tapes down her breasts to attend drag balls. Tiffany embodies what's known as a "femme aggressive" attitude; she doesn't butch it up per se, and often refers to herself as a "faggot" — while RJai, who once appeared on a Ricki Lake Show episode about "Lesbian Studs," is typically dressed a natty three-piece suit. Classically beautiful bike-messenger Kisha has parlayed her androgynous looks into a modeling career, while heavyset, bald and always smiling Flo has been mistaken for a boy her entire life. While defying traditional male-female categorization, these women embrace an entirely different set of types that, while more diverse, seem just as rigorously confining. To the time-honored "butch" and "femme" they've added "butch aggressive" and "femme aggressive," not to mention "butch pretty boys" and "feminine females." Peddle follows his subjects over the course of several years, but unlike Jenny Livingston's groundbreaking PARIS IS BURNING (1990) — an inevitable comparison — Peddle doesn't discuss the role of class in personal identity. In fact, aside from Flo, who relishes being the only Asian American in a predominantly black and Latino scene, race and ethnicity are never discussed, even though none of the featured women is white. Nevertheless, Peddle captures a vital and increasingly visible community that's easily misunderstood, and his film will undoubtedly help novices further understand the complex differences separating gays, transsexuals and the transgendered.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A number of interesting documentaries examine women who refuse to fit comfortably into traditional gender roles; Gabriel Baur's VENUS BOYZ (2003) explored the "drag king" phenomenon, in which biological females adopt male personae, while GENDERNAUTS (2000)… (more)

Show More »