Genderotica in Rome

After visiting my sister in Bologna, I took a train to Roma to attend Genderotica – a queer feminist festival started in 2009 that happens biannually.

The evening commenced with a series of short films by Emilie Jouvet, including one that features a woman brushing her teeth squeeky clean with a vibrator. Another was shot in music video style that featured a woman entering an all women’s night club but practiced extreme protection when hooking up with or touching anyone around her. Was the most beautiful and artful safe sex promotion I had ever seen.

Then there was a break – time to get cheap wine, beer or homey food like gelato or pasta, while the DJ spun old American tunes and women of a wide range of ages were dancing together. I felt inspired by how many women over 60 there were. Hope that’ll be me.

The evening performance was wild. It was a series of back to back performance art pieces, my favorite of which included two women having a sweet picnic together, and another older woman signing about how the bible also says you can’t have clothing made of mixed materials and that it is legal to have slaves or sell your daughter into prostitution. I’ll have to corroborate these claims myself, but I learned a lot that night.

I was happy to be in Rome, with one of my DC friends I hadn’t seen in a while, seeing how women in other counties reclaim their own sexual agency.

Rome, June 2013
International Festival Hosted by Eyes Wild Drag

Call for Abstracts

Femme is a term used by many in the queer community who identify as “feminine.” Defining unequivocally who is femme (or fem in Italian usage) or what it means exactly is not an easy matter, given that it can be – and is – always interpreted differently. More importantly, femme is perceived, expressed and used in a wide variety of ways, both by people who identify as femme and in literature across the globe.

The meanings and interpretations of femme also morph with respect to the intersections of other identities, such as the “class,” “race” and “size” of the femme body. For this reason, every community and every individual, every lesbian, trans or genderqueer person, can be a vehicle for new and subjective redefinitions of a femme identity, that in their fluid and heterogeneous ways remain strongly connected to a queer identity while presenting themselves as distinctly “feminine.”

But if femininity and the values associated with femininity – how a feminine woman “should be” and what she should represent – are social constructs that depend on the power of the male gaze, femmes also upset the stereotypes by masterfully playing with them, subverting categories and definitions by using them outside of their socially accepted norms in the dominant culture.

Femme is also a concept with a strong political imperative. It is manifested all around the world through art, political organizing, academic disciplines, fashion and media in order to counter its invisibility and the negative connotations often assigned to it (tied to mainstream culture’s view of femininity). From Germany to the U.S., from Canada to Australia, movements are born, festivals, events and conferences that create a strong activist community to resist the marginalization that femmes often experience, even within LGBTQI communities.

Given these assumptions, the first Italian Femme Conference aims to develop deeper reflections on the femme identity, its relationship to queer theory, its many modes of expression, its battles and resistances to heteronormativity and normative femininity, which are, to say the least, restrictive and confining. Although artists and performers all over the world are actively spreading and developing subversive femme culture, here in Italy the phenomenon is still relatively new. Joining the traditions of international Femme conferences ( and, the first femme conference in Italy hopes to promote the interactions, testimonies and dissemination of diverse and intergenerational points of view on a subject that has yet to be deepened and expanded upon in Italy. In this way, we hope to contribute to increased visibility of femme identities in the overall struggle to resist categories, dichotomies and assigned genders.

In Italy, femme culture has little to no representation, and femme history is kept silent and largely invisible. We propose to create dialogue that can be an interchange of new networks and a starting point to greater visibility for an active and creative femme culture in Italy. We invite all interested activists, organizers, academics, artists and femme identified or people who find themselves in femme communities to contribute to the dialogue in the form of testimonies, or by sharing your research. Be a part of this historic Italian event!

What is Genderotica?

Genderotica – Contaminations of Queer Art is a project that began in 2009 and occurs biannually. This will be its third iteration. Its settings and artistic selections have distinguished it as a proper festival, even if in limited form. Taking place over three days, Genderotica presents shows, performance art, exhibits of photography, paintings and installations, screenings of shorts and documentaries, and workshops.
Genderotica aims to bring to light various representations of gender from a queer perspective in such a way as to redesign a map of the deconstruction of genders from social, political, cultural and erotic points of view. All this with an eye towards what is happening around gender in the rest of the world.
The initial inspiration was born of the desire to construct an event in which art could tell stories of queerness – through the senses, the queer body, and with joy and passion – resisting claustrophobic and exhausting normative representations. A queer body invigorated by the joy of transformation and liberation!

Please send your proposals, testimonies and comments to by February 28, 2013.

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One thought on “Genderotica in Rome

  1. Written blog. Of course totally blew my mind! Wild. Shows clearly of changing times and perspectives. Once you talk about things like once people talked about ‘condoms’ and now if ‘vibrators’ are not such a hush, hush word the concept will be openly acceptable and vibrators will be sold everywhere – just like condoms. Gender equality must happen on all levels not just on a voting/suffrage level. And, it MUST begin with women first. Many women – surprisingly actually hold the women’s movement from moving ahead! Happy Sunday all over the world to those reading Kiran Gandhi’s blog. Bravo Kiran!

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