Cecilia Dougherty’s first video, made while she was a student at Berkeley, Gay Tape: Butch and Femme applies “a little fine-tuning” to the question of representation, honing in on the subjective particularities of the butch-femme dynamic as experienced by members of Dougherty’s local Bay Area dating pool. As Dougherty describes it:
“Gay Tape is a documentary about some of the regulars at Ollie’s Bar, a lesbian dive on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. The 1970s sartorial statement of flannel shirts, 501s, and Frye boots was passé and at odds with the new eighties aesthetic—tons of makeup, big hair, and complicated lingerie. Along with the new aesthetic came the reemergence of good old fashioned butch-femme role-playing. While the femmes pranced around like Stevie Nicks, their butch girlfriends reverted to an earlier role model, acting out fifties and sixties-style tough girl with brilliant aplomb. I asked some of the women from Ollie’s to talk on camera about role-playing.
The camera instantly gave me too much control over content, so I tried to balance it by providing a platform for the women to speak on the butch-femme issue without overtly directing them. I relinquished authorship in favor of revelation and avoided coming to conclusions; the speakers were experts as well as subjects and could say whatever occurred to them. They spoke extemporaneously about their lovers, the details of their sexual identities, and their fantasies. My girlfriend at the time was one of the subjects. As her story unfolded I realized from my privileged position behind the lens that the lover she was describing in detail was not me. So much for the power of the gaze!”—Marcos Ortega, Light Industry.
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