Coming up for air finally after months of non-stop action. Reflecting on 2017 and the year since my first blog post that began with the election of Trump, followed by Inauguration Day when I resolved to fight the forces that put him in the White House. I may be Canadian but American attitudes infect our society too. And besides, border or not – we are all in this together. Today, I continue to be grateful for my more compassionate, feminist Canadian government, but as committed as ever to raising my voice to be heard in this society that remains dominated by male voices and men’s perspective.
The good news is, that though the election of Trump represented a huge step backwards for progressive women’s rights, as the pendulum swings, we’re now due for two steps forward… and I think we are seeing that begin with the explosion of women’s stories and #metoo, the exposing of Harvey Weinstein and other high profile degenerate men, and the determination of women who are standing up for themselves this year.
As promised in my earlier blog post, I am doing my part.
This year, I became a filmmaker. I am just about ready to debut the trailer of my film, In Her View, that tells a spectrum of women’s abortion stories, centring on the impact that our stories can have on each other, and how we view the issues that affect us the most. It has been a long and arduous journey to get this far and I have learned much along the way – inevitably. This past summer, I simultaneously directed the sizzle reel of my screenplay and co-directed a play. When I first agreed to direct it, I knew it would coincide with the film shoot, so rather than saying no, I invited a man I had only met briefly to co-direct with me. He was interested in our theatre company and he had a background of directing in tv. We shared some of the same ideas for incorporating multimedia elements, and I thought it would be a good complement of skills. Which it was.
At the same time, despite efforts to find a female director of photography to shoot In Her View with me, I found myself working with a 20-something man to shoot the sizzle reel.
The past few months have been an eye-opening lesson in gender dynamics.
Both projects highlight female sexuality. This is not an accident. This is why I’m doing them. It is a subject that has been under represented from the female perspective, beyond the fantasy of the male gaze. In both projects, I collided with the divergent ways both men and women view female sexuality. In some cases, it seemed that to flip the script meant simply to objectify men the same way women have been. One night, I found myself raging against the objectification of both sexes, by both sexes, because that’s not equality in my view. And I worried that having a male DOP was being unfaithful to a film titled In Her View, despite his obvious talent and instincts for the story.
Another day, I was fighting to justify why a female character should be portrayed as strong, despite a physical weakness, because she was fighting to demonstrate her sexuality.
Then an actor dropped out of playing a romantic lead because his love interest was being “too sexual”.
Coincidentally, some of the female actors were challenged by the physical, sexual nature of their characters, afraid to fully embody the sensuality of their roles. And I was baffled by this. These women have grown up in a post-Madonna culture. Where is the female empowerment that the biggest pop icon gave to my generation? I was slapped in the face by the realization that we had taken a step back, long before Trump took office. Somewhere along the line both women and men have come to fear their sexual natures.
Perhaps because it’s no longer merely for the enjoyment of men. And because the progress we had made served to feed women’s social-emotional power – gave them license to lead outside the bedroom too. And everyone is afraid of that. We saw that in last year’s election.
I have heard men say they are convinced that lesbians are going to take over the world. Lesbians! They are strong, and don’t need men after all… but there’s not nearly enough of them, I said. “It’s the bisexuals you have to worry about…”
(I’m looking at you, Wonder Woman).
The social order has been up-ended by race and gender, and nothing made that so clear as watching neo-Nazis chant, “We will not be replaced” in Charlottesville this year.
It was never so clear to me as when finally, after months of sensing the discomfort of my older, white male co-director, at relinquishing leadership to me, he erupted at my use of the “F-word”. What began as offence at the way I spoke to him, quickly degenerated into the reality that he felt emasculated for having bought me lunch a couple of times. It made him feel like a production assistant, he said. And I thought he was just being a nice guy.
My generation of white male cannot allow themselves to be perceived as serving a woman, unless she is helpless, or in bed.
Yet, by the same token, we women have to face our own anger too – while justified. It does us no good if it’s not channeled productively. I felt that truth poignantly in both projects; in my anger, I alienated people I respect and am grateful for, and I saw the impact it has had on the younger generation. Our anger at the injustices and abuse that has been heaped upon us for centuries has taught younger men and women to fear their sexual impulses, lest it get out of control and be misdirected. We are at a cross-roads, it seems. Or maybe it’s just me. But the world certainly seems to be exploding with anger, frustration and accusations. And amid all the drama playing out over these two projects that I was helming… I was astonished by the brave and understated response of one young actress, who ever so calmly reported to me, a case of a non-consensual kiss by another actor. He was reprimanded, the behaviour was never repeated and we moved on without further incident. Later, when #metoo was highlighting the inaction of so many people, I wondered if I should have fired him… and I still wonder. But I checked in with the actress and she was satisfied with my response and its result, so I guess that will have to be good enough for me too.
And as I wish to portray with In Her View, we could all use a little less blame, we can slow down and listen to each other’s stories.
That’s my goal. What’s yours?