Womenfolk


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about women.

Last weekend at the 82nd Academy Awards Kathryn Bigelow quietly shattered my dream of ever being the first femaleBest Director Academy Award 2010 to win the Oscar for Best Director, but I could hardly be very upset by this since it is easier to follow a precedent than to set one. Besides, it’s a good time to be a woman in film: I myself had recently had the opportunity to screen my own film “The Visionary” at the Midwest Film Festival‘s inaugural Female Filmmakers Night and was looking  forward to screening again at the end of the month at the LA Women’s Film Festival. The industry is changing and the results will be effects of changes that are happening right now.

But that wasn’t why I was thinking about women. I was thinking about women because I recently read a book by Deborah Cameron called “The Myth of Mars and Venus” which, naturally, is a direct response to “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” by John Gray. The latter had been lent to me by a good friend and I’d started it with high expectations but finished it with a sense of vague dissatisfaction. The more I read of the the more I found myself taking umbrage with his definitions of “the way [women] communicate” as if the fact of ones gender defined one’s communication style; not because the descriptions were demeaning or belittling but because they didn’t fit. I am a woman. I certainly do not feel that I needed to talk out my feelings in order to think them through. I do not feel that being cherished is more important than being accepted (although I like feeling cherished very much- who doesn’t?). I’m not particularly social or cooperative even though I recognize the value of cooperation.

And I most definitely have a man-cave.

In fact, I found that I associate a great deal with “Martian” qualities: I feel a constant need to prove myself, for instance. I need time to get back in touch with who I am as an individual. I want respect. I am competitive.  And it’s not because I’m secretly masculine in nature, these are just qualities of an introvert and I am an introvert.

I finished the book with an effort. My faith in its argument continually broken down every time a passage described how Venusians “normally” act as if I was wrong for not fitting the model. So I sought out “The Myth of Mars and Venus” to assuage my sense that I was missing something that millions of other readers had understood.

Deborah Cameron’s book requires a grain of salt. I find that I am very sensitive to charged language and I found myself noticing more than a little bit of slant when it came  to the subject of women-being-represented-poorly-in-male-society. But then again, that is the basis of her argument: that the communication difficulties between men and women is not a fact of gender based hard-wiring but rather a question of power. Men have the power. Women want the power. In our enlightened society, men are now fighting women for that power and are finding that they are evenly matched, therefore we are looking for new ways to show how different we are.

Which brings me  back to Kathryn Bigelow. The film industry, like law, politics, or executive levels of business is still very largely a man’s domain. Women in film are not just filmmakers they are female-filmmakers; as if that makes a difference. The fact that we already go looking for differences between men and women in their modes of communication make me wonder whether we will start to look for differences in film as well. Will there someday be a book called “Males are Moviemakers, Females are Filmmakers” defining the differences between male and female film styles or will we just reach a point where we can’t tell the difference and don’t care any more? Will there come a time when no one thinks twice about the Oscar going  to a female filmmaker? Or will we decide it is an apples-to-oranges comparison and create categories of Best Director and Best Directrix? It’s hard to say, but I’ll be excited to see how it turns out.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 12, 2010.

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