Ladies


I didn’t post anything yesterday because I spent the entire day in the movie theater. Literally fourteen hours in a theatre.
I was there because I had volunteered to help with a film festival; the LA Women’s Film Festival to be exact. It is a perennial favorite on my personal festival circuit (and it just so happens that my film “Dark Before Dawn” will be playing as the closing act- which doesn’t hurt my opinion any).
I feel compelled to like any festival that is especially supportive of women in film: probably as a facet of my complex but deeply seated relationship with feminism. My relationship with feminism is a bit like my relationship with my mother: I love my mother but I don’t want to be my mother. I admire her but I don’t always agree with her. It is clear that we are related and it is equally clear that we are completely different.
The thing about feminism that I always get hung up on is why it is a “thing” anymore: not to say that all the changes that the world needs have been made already but rather that the people who still need to change are not the people who attend women’s film festivals and the people who attend women’s film festival are not the people who need to change.  And this is not to say that we shouldn’t celebrate women filmmakers and their work but rather that we shouldn’t have to qualify it as being “woman made”. We don’t qualify babies as being “woman made” why should we have to qualify any other work crafted by a person in pursuit of their own destiny as being the work of a woman or a man?
I was sent an article recently about the way women are portrayed in movies and they used that phrase:” In pursuit of their destiny” as in “women characters are portrayed as being in pursuit of a relationship, or as sidekicks/ arm candy, and not as characters in pursuit of their own destiny.” The phrase stuck in mind because it has often bothered me that few women are ever shown as having a destiny beyond their relationships or their family. The thing that bothered me the most about it is that when I tried to think of a story about a woman character even I had trouble thinking of a destiny for her to pursue that wasn’t a relationship or her family. I wondered what that said about me. I wondered what that said about our culture. I wondered what it is saying every day in a million small ways to girls and women who are less introspective about the roles of women as portrayed by the media.
Interestingly I discovered that the key to thinking about interesting women characters was to not think about them as women. Perhaps this is feminist blasphemy. “Woman” was a very distracting word to me. It is easier for me to write an interesting story about a poet, a doctor, a scientist, a writer, or an athlete and then afterwards to define whether it was a he-poet or a she-poet.
Perhaps we need to stop thinking about gender as the first defining feature of a character and start thinking of the destiny first instead. And perhaps this applies to real life as much as to the characters in a movie: that if we define ourselves by what we want to do before we define ourselves by the shapes of our bodies we will be able to recognize our common intentions instead of the differences in our biology.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 23, 2013.

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