Equality. Why is there even a debate about this?
We’ve been hearing about gender issues in the film industry for a while now. Is there anyone left who would be surprised to hear about the gender disparity in the film industry?
So with talk comes action. There has been a movement, a reaction with initiatives such as Gender Matters through Screen Australia. And of course, people have react to these initiatives.
I read a lot of articles through IF Magazine. Yesterday I read my email and this heading peaked my interest: “Director James Ricketson’s open letter on quotas in the Australian screen sector“.
I instantly thought “another man wants to talk about gender in the Australian film industry. Let’s see if he says something different to the other male reactions”.
Then I read the article (which you can read here) and was inevitably disappointed.
I quickly went to Facebook to post about it. My mini-rant went something like this:
When men (particularly white men) comment on this issue I find myself continually disappointed. The fact that they don’t seem to understand that priviledge is ingrained in society is truly frustrating. Maybe people aren’t actively being discriminated against (as suggested over and over in this article) but it’s not active discrimination that is the issue. It is passive discrimination. The discrimination that is slowly absorbed as you grow in this world. Because of it’s slow progression, you don’t realise that you have benefitted from it when others haven’t and it was because you were lucky enough to be born a white male in Australia. Yes, I am a white Australia woman. And yes, I know that my life has been easier than many others. But the fact that I wasn’t born at the top of the societal food chain gives me a deeper appreciation and understanding for those with more ‘predators’ to deal with. Because inequality is so deeply ingrained we need to have equity first, and that’s why there are initiatives for women, indigenous, LGBT, etc. We are aiming for a future where initiatives will not be necessary because we have achieved the equality we’re currently fighting for.
Today I opened my email once more and am not surprised to read this heading from IF: “Sophie Mathisen responds to James Ricketson’s letter on Gender Matters” (read here).
Ms Mathesion starts off with a New Year’s Eve story, which (if you change a couple of minor details) would sound quite familiar to others:
Recently I was engaged in a robust discussion with a man at a New Years Eve party, who challenged me when I stated I was disappointed by the recent installment of Star Wars. A sly smirk spread across his face as I told him about my qualms. Knowing I am a director, he asked me who I would have preferred at the helm of the film, rather than J.J. Abrams. I offered a list, to which he replied “No, no, what females do you reckon could have done it?” Of course, my gender guides my tastes, rather than investment in the form. I gave him my recommendations, along with the qualifications they possessed to fulfill the role, which he systematically and methodically shut down. This exchange ended with him shouting furiously in my face, “A woman can’t direct Star Wars because women are too emotional!”
Urgh! You get to the end of that “conversation” and you can either go for the “well who’s being emotional now” route or the “I’m ignoring you because your negative energy is draining me” route. You can envisage (in minute detail) how each scenario will go and you either have to amp yourself up for the battle or get disappointed in yourself for forgetting that people like this exist in the world.
…and therein lies the issue.
I feel like trying to explain to men how different it is to live life as a woman would be like a person of colour trying to explain to my white self how life is for them. You may think you understand, but you don’t. And you never will.
BUT… if you can acknowledge that you don’t understand, you are taking the first baby step in the right direction.
And that is all we want, because a snowball begins with a single snowflake.
…there is always hope…