It is not necessary that something having a female author, director or even protagonist will have feminist messages. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) has many feminist messages conveyed through the relationship between The Creature and Victor Frankenstein.
Margaret Atwood does a similar thing with the protagonist Jimmy in her novel Oryx and Crake (2003), as Jimmy interacts with the character Oryx and Crake.
In the Guardian article titled, "#MeToo activists should stop trying to be film critics - they undermine feminism" by Agnès Poirier, gives a stern criticism of the current Cannes film festival praise for the movie Girls of the Sun (2018) by French film maker Eva Husson.
Poirer found the movie to be exploitative and instead of showing numerous ways women contribute to war, Husson seemed to her to possess the tunnel vision that only motherhood is the paramount force of being female.
Of course, this completely ignores that trans women may not be mothers and certain cis women cannot be mothers too - are they not real women if they cannot experience motherhood yet or at all?
The question was a good one to pick and one that delivers home that age old concealed misogyny, where a woman is only worth it because she can be a mother.
Poirier laments that the female character in the movie have not been treated as a politically, active force who are engaged in warfare in Kurdistan. I can understand the frustration especially when we think of so many ways that women contribute to warfare.
Instead of being a movie about being agents in a war, it seems to use war as a framework for understanding motherhood. There can be something strange about this.
Motherhood can be a feminist statement: either becoming a mother or not, making the choices and going forth. Yet Poirer found the movie to not be making this statement but rather she called it, "a good cause for self-aggrandisement instead of serving it."
Poirier is also annoyed that people want to discredit reviewers who said the film was not spectacular because the critics are male. She, as a woman, does not like the movie.
A movie can have a female director, female characters but not be empowering to women at all. A good example of proto-feminist novels falling short is books such as Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) by D.H. Lawrence.
When one critically reads it they come to see that the "Lover" also known as Mellors, the gamekeeper, is the real subject of the novel.
Mellors is actually exploitative and manipulative so I don't think the novel's ending can be called feminist. For a brief moment, it may have seemed so but ultimately it failed to actually make Constance Chatterley the subject of the novel.
There have been many Japanese shoujo manga (comics usually directly towards a female readership) that are not at all feminist by nature. A good example is Miki Aihara's Hot Gimmick (2000-2005), which ends with protagonist, Hatsumi Narita, in a relationship with her abuser, who is pretty much a rapist.
I think Aihara knew the outrage of many fans when this happened and so she was happy to release a sequel, Hot Gimmick S (2007), written by another author with an alternative canon ending.
"Film critics judge films as human beings, aided by their knowledge of cinema and its history. They judge a film objectively and subjectively: they consider the mise en scène, editing, framing, acting, and they also respond emotionally - an emotion built on their shared humanity.
To think that your gender, and by extension, the color of your skin, your age, your religion or lack of, the size of your bank account, predetermines your every thought is denying our ability to think and decide freely and to engage with the world in all its diversity and complexity. There is such a thing as universal human experience: it is what binds us all together."
I may not completely agree with Poirier's statement but it is sexist, in itself, to discredit a review just because the gender of the reviewer is male. That would be equivalent to discrediting female reviewers just because their gender is female.
Rather, Poirier considers Three Faces (2018) by house arrested Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, to be more feminist in its messages. The movie is reviewed by Guardian's Peter Bradshaw who says of the film to be focused on three people and also a mysterious figure:
"[A] hidden face - that of an female actor from the pre-Revolutionary days, who has come to Marziyeh's village in her retirement to paint.
She is regarded with utmost suspicion by villagers who despite their fan-worship of the female actors' celebrity status, retain a patriarchal suspicion of female actors whose time has come and gone - female actors who have lost their profession and fame and now simply women again. She is an enigmatic presence."
The words "simple women again" is chilling. The fact that the star is one who can no longer be the Madonna and is treated ordinarily again is something South Asia also faces where it has different rules for actors and different rules for the average women.
The film, as Bradshaw reviews, is all about lost dreams and finding out the truth. The fact one of the protagonists is a woman, who is considered way past her prime, but still trying to make a difference, is important.
I think Steven Spielberg's The Post (2017) is also feministic as it showed the struggles a 40's something woman publisher, Katherine Graham, had to face in the 70s when publishing the confidential exposé on Vietnam in The Washington Post.
We do need older female protagonists in various media, struggling with various issues. The problems faced by women of various ages including declining health and how to cope with it are feminist issues but not ones that are usually shown on the silver screen.
The cinema still loves to put up the romantic ideology of the youthful female character, who is either going places or settling down. Of course, some movies do try to beat down this narrative at present such as Lady Bird (2017), which documents how teenage hood can be rift with horrible events, bad friendships, depressive issues and bad decisions.
The main argument that Poirier put up is salient and viable. To think that all male authors, directors and writers are automatically anti-women and that female artists are pro-feminist or women is a fallacious claim. You can be let down by women authors and you can be touched by the understanding of male artists.
I want to end in reminding that "The Captive Ladie"(1849) by Michael Madhusudan Dutt and A Doll's House (1879) by Henrik Ibsen are written by male authors and they do talk about the plights of being women in patriarchal circumstances.
The #MeToo movement is important but it should not become blinded to its own principles that are for wanting equality and also treating all the genders as equal with equal merit.
The writer is a copy editor of The Asian Age
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