There should be a Bechdel test for film watching

Women are brilliant and feminism is amazing. Two obvious statements perhaps, but always worth repeating. I love the fact that Sight & Sound have dedicated their latest issue to rewriting women into film history. It’s upsetting in a way that they need to do this in 2015. It reminds me of the idea of women-only shortlists for parliamentary candidates: we shouldn’t have to do it in this day and age, but clearly the patriarchy has enacted its plan to sideline women for years and these shortlists are an effective way to counter this. There shouldn’t need to be a special issue celebrating the many women omitted from film history, they should have been championed the whole time, but as with the UK’s parliamentary gender imbalance, film industries have a long way to go before male domination is demolished.

I haven’t read the issue yet, (though I’ll be rushing out to buy it tomorrow morning!), so I can’t comment on how their list of 100 films has been put together and how Eurocentric it is in its construction. Perhaps also problematic is that generating lists creates binaries, between films that feature and those that do not. Aren’t binaries, and perhaps lists themselves, patriarchal in form? Nevertheless I think it’s a good thing and will no doubt be seeking out some of these films to watch, rather than remain complicit in the patriarchy’s omission of creative women.

There was a Facebook trend going around awhile back (I’m rubbish at Facebook, but I have a reliable source) where people would post the top ten books that had influenced them and then tag someone else to do the same. A friend of a friend was tagged by a few different people, but wouldn’t contribute. To paraphrase she said she refused to write a list until she read at least one that wasn’t completely dominated by men. Her point was not just to draw attention to the blatant sexism of the canon, but also to comment on the way in which that sexism is pervasive: people weren’t consciously filling their lists with men. It’s outrageous that someone would purposefully exclude women from a literary canon, or that someone in a position of authority would create a male-dominated Eurocentric list claiming (a frankly unbelievable) ignorance of questions of gender and ethnicity (see Exeunt by way of classy reply and Andrew Haydon for a hilarious take on Billington’s imaginary female critic), but it should be just as outrageous that this happens with film.

If a new Facebook trend started up with people listing the films that influenced them most, I know what it would look like. Rather than writing those endless lists of men, let’s refuse and begin to redress the disparity. My film watching record is hugely imbalanced with regard to gender, but hey, from tomorrow I’ll have a list of 100 to watch and that’s at least a start.

– Adam

(Header image taken from Sight & Sound’s pictures article ‘Women with a movie camera‘)

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