400,000 (and counting) men, women, and children adorned in pink pussy hats marched together in the most civil foot traffic New York City has probably seen in decades.
MD: Welcome to Episode 2 (who knew we’d make it this far?!) of Art Collision. I am your host Michael Doshier a.k.a. Johnny Darlin in musical land. And in this episode of Art Collision, I sit down with Julia Pugachevsky, creator of the web series "Life After Fat," and Kaela Garvin, co-creator of the web-series "2 Girls 1 Asian." Julia and Kaela are both friends of mine from college, but their creation and release of these series’ came as a shock to me as a friend and fan. Somehow, despite just graduating school and carrying demanding day jobs and pursuing other artistic endeavors that I did know about, these two friends of mine were suddenly releasing these seemingly massive, highly collaborative, sleek-as-hell projects that I’ve always been deeply intrigued with. Where did they find the time and the funding and the casts and the inspiration? How personal were these projects to each of them, and what were the themes they were trying to explore? I couldn’t wait to find out the answers to these questions, but even more importantly, to see what happened when placing two strangers in a room together who had undergone similar processes to deliver very different, yet equally stunning, results. With, of course, some free-flowing Blue Moon, as always.
This is Art Collision: Kaela Garvin in Conversation with Julia Pugachevsky.
MD: Today I am here with Kaela Garvin of “2 Girls 1 Asian” and Julia Pugachevsky of “Life After Fat.” Thank you both very much for joining me today. In both of your series, you’re very much exploring the idea of identity. That’s evident from just the title of either of them. I’m curious why you chose that particular identity to explore and where that came from in your psyches and minds.
JP: For me, “Life After Fat” came from – I haven’t personally lost a lot of weight, but I’ve had friends who have, and who had sort of similar experiences where it’s sort of… adjusting to this new body, and feeling like there’s this definitive “new you”, which I strongly disagree with. I think as a society we teach women especially (but men as well) that once you transform into a new person, your life will be so much better and work out. That’s sort of the core of the show – exploring that aspect of it, and finding out who you really are in this way that isn’t being perfect all the time, or being thinner or having better skin or whatever it is. It’s a matter of finding that original person in all their new forms and tying them together.
KG: That was something I really liked about your series – and it was so subtle and cool – was that, it’s not just people who are overweight or underweight or going through weight change that face body image issues. It’s everybody. You see that in all the characters in their relationships, so I thought that was really subtle and cool. We chose to focus on racial identity because me and my friend Kelly who created it, it’s something we always talk about. We’re both half-Asian and we’re usually the two People of Color in the room – if not the only ones, there may be someone else of a different race. But we are usually the only Asian people in the room. So there are a lot of micro-aggressions that go on all the time. There’s this persistent American idea that being Asian is “other” and “foreign” no matter how long you’ve been in the country. There’s also all these other crazy things that men say to Asian women online, in-person, on the street. The other day in Chelsea, there was this guy just yelling “Ni hao” at me for forever. Twice in one day! I walked past him two times and maybe he was yelling “Ni hao” at everybody, but I don’t think so! So, yeah, for us it was the obvious thing that if we’re creating avatars of ourselves going through the world, something that we connect to as friends and artists when we’re working in a room as diverse as they get, race is a thing that comes up a lot for us. So we took that and ran with it, and took it up to 100 in the series, but it was something that was real in our lives.
MD: Both shows are based in New York City – you both live in New York City and they feel like New York shows. What does that backdrop add to the show?
JP: When I started “Life After Fat,” I was around 21 so I was super into Girls. I still am; I still watch it with a more critical eye now (especially when it comes to race and inclusivity, although I think Lena Dunham has grown a lot as an artist) but when I first saw it, I was so amazed. I think because I had never seen someone who looks like Lena Dunham portrayed in a sexual way. Or, a way that’s earnest and not the punch line of a joke. And I just love the style of it – they had these friendships that were not always perfect and even catty sometimes, which I think can happen in your 20s. The people you think are your friends are perhaps your friends for the wrong reason. There was something about the grittiness of it I loved and I found kind of real at that time. During the first season of “Life After Fat,” that’s definitely true where there’s a little bit of jealousy and cattiness and everyone’s struggling to find a job. Coming out of college, in addition to any weight transformations or personal changes, you also have the change of not being supported by your parents anymore and having to make a name for yourself, having to make a life for yourself. All of that combined, being 20 in New York is maddening; it really is. It’s a struggle.
KG: Both of our series look at being a woman in New York City, going through daily life, interacting with this crazy huge metropolis which is the best place in the world but at times super “other” and scary and isolating. For us at least, it was an obvious choice – we met here, we live here. The filming it, perhaps, in one of our hometowns (Kelly is from Maryland, I’m the from San Francisco Bay Area) – we’re both from total suburbia. So the situations we find ourselves in may even be more aggravated because they’re less frequent. I think here, there’s a fast-paced thing that makes every event seem both more significant and less, depending on how your day’s been.
JP: That’s very real. I also like that you gave that nod to Hannah Horvath in your pilot. That was so good, and I was thinking the same thing. It reminds me of the opening scene of Girls where the parents are like, “We’re actually cutting you off.” It reminded me of both Girls and Broad City – in Broad City, you have them both skyping each other, and you’re both having these Skype conversations with your parents at the same time. It’s like, surreal and hilarious but also feels so, so real at the same time. Your friends are just with you in these very strange times.
KG: With our real parents messing up their lines!
MD: That was one of my questions! Those were your real parents?
KG: Yeah, we did it before Aziz! (laughs) No, we skyped both of our parents in their houses in Maryland and California to film that scene and my dad was reading a paper and you can see it! You can see that he’s doing it. And one of my friends messaged me and was like, “So your dad hasn’t memorized, huh?” Sorry!
MD: Dad was not off-book. Do your parents watch the whole series?
KG: They did! Actually in the mid-season, it starts with an episode where we have period shits and we’re in the bathroom and Kelly’s farting a lot. My dad, when I went home for Christmas, he was really mad. He was like, “We only watched two minutes then we turned it off. You should really think before making material like that.” But then he was like, “Yeah, well, I don’t know, it’d be easier for me to swallow if it was like a dude doing it.” And I was like, “That’s why we’re doing it!”
JP: I so agree with that too. In the pilot of “Life After Fat” there was a joke that people always comment on. One of the girls talks about sneezing and her tampon falling out. I don’t know, it’s something that I’m so excited about when I see female web series creators, because I think that’s something we need to tackle. You know, like, why is it only in Judd Apatow movies you have guys doing gross stuff or being weird? I feel like Broad City is something that I’m very, very excited about for that reason too. Women being kind of like the guys, cause we are. There’s no rule that we can’t be this way. I think showing that vulnerability, both series’ have that in common where you’re showing women being themselves and fucking up and it’s okay and it can be cute, even.
MD: I wanted to talk about my favorite episode of each one. I’ll start with you, Julia. My favorite episode was “Brunch” largely because of the interaction between Lauren and Ellen. To me, it speaks to the existential dread most artists – at least myself – have which is worry that I’m not doing enough. In that scene, she was literally told she wasn’t doing enough. It was poignant and hard to watch, and weirdly inspiring because you could tell she was going to go out and do more.
JP: Yeah, originally Ellen was supposed to be Russian, like an Olga or something. My parents are from the Former Soviet Union. I used to take music classes at this Russian Music Academy. There’s such a difference and it can be a lot harsher. I think having parents that are Ukrainian and not American – they would always criticize other parents of my American friends, like, “What is it with this country where we tell everyone they’re good all the time. That’s sick, that’s bad.” It’s weird; I sort of grew up in between that, being a kid of immigrants. It’s always like, “if you want to do something artistic,” and my parents have always been supportive of that, but they’d say, “You have to work for it. We won’t support you if you’re going to drink and fuck around and say you’re an artist.” So, I think that’s the message with that. Lauren is someone who wants to be an actor as so many people do, but her perception of what is trying hard is not actually trying hard. This woman, she’s older and more experienced, looks at her like, “You have everything. You have all this privilege, this time, this money to actually put into something. Why aren’t you doing every tiny thing that you can when you’ve been given so much?”
MD: My favorite episode of “2 Girls 1 Asian” was the Super Musical Episode.
KG: We sort of came up with the idea while driving around in her car when she had a car in the city. She’s now in grad school back at home in Maryland, but we’d drive around and toss around ideas, which is where we came up with the whole season. We were super excited about the musical episode. For the first season, I’d churn out a draft based on an outline Kelly would give me and then we’d outline what each scene might look like. Then I’d go back and write it and she’d give me notes and we’d go back and forth and then our director and D.P. Dorian and Tyler would give us notes and rewrites. So it was very a collaborative process. The first draft of the script, though, the lyrics were not that super different. Then we realized if you want to use that music, it has to be a parody legally. So I went back and really hacked at the songs and most of those lyrics stayed which is what you hear. Then we brought on board a couple of great musicians – one is Lance Jabr, who I went to High School with. He’s back in the Bay Area now but at the time he was at NYU for grad school. And a guy I went to class with, John Franco, who is an amazing pianist. So we recorded it all in one of the actress’s apartments, actually, cause she at the time had a sound studio set up. So it was a lot of moving parts, but I loved recording it, I loved doing all the music, and Kelly and I both come from a Musical Theatre background so it was fun to be total dorks about that. It was a lot of fun to shoot, but it definitely sucked up the most budget and time out of any episode because we had to do so much for it.
MD: I want to talk about the ending of each season one of your series, how I interpreted it, allow you to expand on that or correct me if I’m wrong, and talk about the future of what these characters are going to go through in the upcoming seasons, as much as you want to say about that. I’ll start with you, Julia, the last scene of “Life After Fat” read to me as this amazing moment where our protagonist made a decision to change her life in a radical way. In her decision to approach this group of artists that inspire and challenge her and leave this guy behind that she is hanging out with – which is not something she had done at that point, she seemed very apt to hook up or date whoever made themselves available to her. It seems like her friendship drama with her roommate is out of her mind at this point and she’s committed to going to something new in her life.
JP: She’s sort of this character that has this new body but doesn’t feel attached to it yet. Partially because she never felt people liked her or accepted her for who she was before this change. She’s bouncing from guy to guy – you never know if the sex is good for her. She hooks up and does these things because she feels like they’ll validate her in some way. Regardless of if you have this backstory or not, I feel like that’s something a lot of women – myself included – go through. I’d say the early years of my 20’s were like, getting drunk and hooking up and pretending to have this emotional barrier of “I don’t care! It’s fine!” And pretending to always be the chill girl. Her exterior is that she’s not very emotional unless she’s pushed. Her brother sort of pushes her a lot and that’s the first time you see her break, really. She’s almost like, disturbingly calm. You can see it drives her friends crazy and they all worry about her. So I think this is a chance of her – seeing this beautiful thing, this Burlesque dancer, and deciding to take this chance and try it. It’s showing more vulnerability, it’s healthier, and it’s something that could promote actual self-love, which is something I want to explore. In season 2, not to spoil too much, it’ll be the first time she actually falls in love with someone and I think that will be something where she’s really exploring these emotions for the first time and allowing herself to be vulnerable in this very, very real way. That’s sort of where I want to see her character grow and really challenge her. It’s easy to be this, I don’t know, sort of like you’re floating above your body the whole time and not really interacting or reacting to things.
MD: That’s beautiful. (laughs) I was just really moved by that! I feel the need to take a risk in my life and totally shake things up! And then, for you, Kaela, I felt that the ending of “2 Girls 1 Asian” was kind of the opposite, but just as inspiring and moving. For me, it read that they had this moment where they could radically change their lives by taking a break from their friendship, but instead the moment they decide to give that a shot, they realize they are each other’s partners.
KG: We actually rewrote most of the last episode. We shot it all in a car on the road in Sleepy Hollow, New York. We scouted out the location the night before. We were like, “Eh, this script isn’t doing it for me,” so as we were talking we started to improve a scene until we thought we had it right for the end. It was always going to be that ending, though, of them trying to walk into the wilderness with their dead car by the side of the road. But looking forward, we did three more episodes as a mid-season that aren’t tied down to any storyline. They’re basically back in Brooklyn up to their normal antics. Friends are really your lifeline, especially in New York City, so in season 2 we’re trying to figure out some of our ideas, especially now that we’re physically separated. Our series has always been ludicrously autobiographical – we’ll take what’s going on in our real lives and totally explode that into something we think is funny, I don’t know if it’s actually funny, it’s funny-ish. But we’re hoping to look into what happens – and this was an idea pitched to us in a writer’s room for the midseries – what if one of the girls goes to grad school? How do they deal with each other gaining success without the other one? Maybe not even without, but separate. And that’s something that actually happened in our real lives, and I think we’re interested in looking into that and what that means for the fictional Kaela and Kelly.
JP: Something I love about your series and am almost jealous of in a way is that they have this beautiful friendship and it’s a love story. It’s platonic, but I think you’re seeing them overcome these things together and they have conflicts within that friendship, but you can’t see one without the other. I think seeing one person succeed, especially with acting where it’s so…it can be so raw, all the emotions of pursuing an artistic career in general. Seeing one friend succeed without the other is hard, because success is so rare in general. I don’t know. I’m so moved by the friendship and I love shows where there are two women where they are so close, nice, and real with each other. They have a real genuine friendship.
KG: I think that’s why it’s so cool to see so many lady web series popping up. Institutionally, there’s not funding for women’s’ projects. I feel that in this independent arts community is where women get to shine because nobody’s giving us money.
JP: Or a chance. Women are half the population if not more, in this country at least. TV and playwriting have more space for women, but even playwriting, on Broadway you see a bunch of old white guy stuff rehashed a lot. With TV, you have Amy Schumer, you have Samantha B, you have Broad City, and you have Shonda Rhimes. You have all these women in power doing these cool things and it becomes this thing where webseries’ are getting picked up. If you are good enough, they will notice you. And I don’t feel the same way about Hollywood. And I think even where I work – I work at Buzzfeed – I love that we have so many strong women and I’m allowed to do stuff that’s content for women. I think the Internet web series realm is a really great place for female creators to thrive. For female filmmakers or aspiring filmmakers and writers – make something, put it on there, and be so good that they can’t not notice you.
KG: I think in general, artists, self-production is the way to go. It’s great that the Internet is around to publicize it. But it’s such a weird time to be an artist cause there’s so little real public funding and private funding is, you have to be commercially viable which translates into white, straight, and a dude. Which is like, so weird, that that’s…most of the world is not a straight white dude so why is that the entertainment they think makes money? They’ve shown if you make a series for Asian people or Black people or women, it’s going to do well. If it’s good.
JP: Tons of admiration for you cause you’ve done so many episodes. I was going through YouTube for "2 Girls 1 Asian", I was like “Holy shit!” They’re so long, too, with so much footage! It’s so much work, I was like, “Holy fuck, I have to get my life together!” It was so impressive and so great. I love your friendship with Kelly. It’s so cute and real.
KG: Yeah, I loved your series as well and I can’t wait to see more of it! I’m excited for season number 2!
JP: We’ve been so delayed…
KG: I feel like that’s Rule #2 of working in film. If Rule #1 is “Be Organized,” Rule #2 is “It’s fine if you’re not, cause no one else is!” Well, not really, but –
JP: It’s a beautiful mess. You have to fuck up a lot to get better. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned – you’re going to mess up two hundred times then maybe start getting a little bit better.
Thank you so much to both Julia Pugachevsky and Kaela Garvin for joining me for a cross-web-series discussion on Things Created By People’s Art Collision. Season 1 of Julia’s “Life After Fat” can be viewed in its entirety at lifeafterfatseries.com. Season 1 and the mid-season episode-thruple of Kaela Garvin and Kelly Colburn’s “2 Girls 1 Asian” is at 2girls1asian.com.
Both are moving forward with their second seasons in 2016 and have laid the groundwork – available right now for you to watch - to be exploring very enticing territory this year. Both shows come highly recommended from your loyal host here at Art Collision who would never steer you wrong.
As always, please hit me up if you are interested in being paired up with another artist and coming over to share a few drinks with me and another artist. It would truly be my pleasure and just an FYI – I ALWAYS provide the drinks, so you get to drink for free and talk about your own shit!
All original music featured in this episode - outside of the music in the web series clips - was by the amazing JULIAN, and you can find JULIAN’s work at soundcloud.com/jalapeno_boi.
Until next time.
Here are some stories, reflections, quotes and experiences I’ve had which have caused me to reflect on the state of women abroad and in America. Since learning what a feminist is, namely someone who believes in the equality of men and women, I’ve identified as one and since opened my eyes to a world of sexism, misogyny and discrimination. My bones are chilled and my heart is heavy.
Feminism is believing that men and women are equal (see Emma Watson’s lovely U.N. speech on the subject here). The problem worldwide is not necessarily the black-and-white idea that men and women are not equal. It’s not as simple as women know they are oppressed and are trying to break free. There’s a barrier of culture, tradition and expectation that makes the idea of equally valuing human female life revolutionary. (See female feticide rates in India or in China or just the contrast in male vs. female literacy rates by country).
Human trafficking is just one of the many abuses against women worldwide, and often starts out less dramatically than in Taken. Women are simply sold by family members or lured to foreign countries by the prospect of jobs such as working as maids, but are instead forced into brothels where they are beaten for resisting (when that doesn’t work, perpetrators will get girls addicted to drugs). Often this takes place in countries where they do not speak the language, where they are not allowed to leave their dwelling, and where no one helps them because prostitution is so stigmatized.
More offensive, degrading practices towards women:
- Kidnapping and raping a woman who refuses to marry you to strip her of her honor in Ethiopia
- Exchanging a bride for her younger sister when her hymen doesn’t break on her wedding in Afghanistan (My source here is actually my aesthetician is from Afghanistan and knows somebody who this happened to!)
- Moral police in Iran taking you to court for being seen in public without a male relative to chaperone,
- Publically stoning a 13 or 14-year old girl to death for refusing to marry a Shabab commander in Somalia
- A husband killing his wife in Pakistan so he could marry another woman
- Acid attacks permanently scarring women’s faces in Colombia, sometimes simply for breaking off a relationship
Meena is an Indian kidnapped and trafficked into a brothel at 8- or 9-years old in Bihar, India profiled by Kristof and WuDunn. She was beaten into submission before spending years in the brothel, where she had two children that the owners had taken as hostages so that Meena couldn’t leave. Even though police officers were frequent customers and serviced for free, Meena took a chance and ran away to a police station hoping that they might take mercy on her. The officers sent her back.
My Firsthand Experiences
Seven years before I became aware of feminism, I went to Egypt with my family to visit family. I was 12. I didn’t know about culturally appropriate dress or the expected role of a woman in conservative Middle Eastern countries. I noticed women staring, but at that time I couldn’t make sense of why they would cover themselves up in this hot weather. I knew it was for religious purposes, but having grown up secularly I saw no reason to dress so modestly.
It was a busy marketplace in Cairo, filled with jewelry vendors and children selling trinkets and toys. The humidity turned my straightened hair curly again. My attire of a tank top and Soffe shorts was weather-appropriate.
A man grabbed my behind. Among the rushing, the crowds, and all the veiled faces, it was impossible to even know which direction to look. I was too stunned to act so I just stopped and looked at all the possible perpetrators… I noticed one man who was walking just a little bit too fast. Had I even been sure, I had no idea how to act.
I wish I did. I wish I knew what I know now. The appropriate action would have been to shame that man: to yell, to point, to express my disgust in anger so such acts aren’t “allowed” to happen. But I was too shocked, too surprised, too taken off-guard, too unsure if I felt what I think I really just felt.
I wish I knew Gabrielle then: my roommate in India. When she was groped at a crowded Indian festival she turned around and immediately punched him in the face. She describes his shocked and unexpected face as priceless. (I wish I saw it.) It’s the official protocol for more moments I hope I never find myself in.
I did, however, get to witness Gabrielle in action on another occasion. We once went out to ice cream Hauz Khas in Delhi, India when a man with a group of friends passed us and pinched her behind. My friend, knowing exactly what to do, immediately yelled “Hey! What the hell was that?! Don’t touch me, you—” “Sorry,” the man turned around smiling with his hands on his ears. (In India it is common to place your hands on your ears when apologizing).
Smiling. Flirtatiously. Smirking as if he knew she didn’t really mean what she said. Even though she was yelling, she really welcomed the invasion of privacy, the implication that she was not a person enough to decide who makes choices about her body.
But more terrible than watching it happen to someone else is watching it happen to yourself. First, at the school I worked at in Bisada, India, when a group of (mostly male) students gathered around me and I yelled “SPACE” as I usually did when they started to overcrowd me; instead of the gradual dispersal of the crowd I felt a prod in my behind. And instead of reporting to the principal immediately, I yelled angrily at the mysterious student and hoped for it to die down because of course who wants their butt to be the subject of school news and a possible suspension? And of course I “let” the group of boys gather around me and I didn’t act quickly or sternly enough to control their behavior. A full-fledged feminist for three years at that point, I still managed to become my own victim in a classic victim-blaming scenario. Here, too, the desire to maintain privacy and forget embarrassing situations was strong. (And it was something that used to infuriate me in the past: reading about women’s stories of rape or sexual violence, I always wished, above all, that they took action against their perpetrators who deserved punishment or public shaming). I did take action, but after the school expelled the student they retracted the expulsion when he threatened the school with gang violence. By this point, the whole school knew about the incident. And another generation of students were taught that violating a woman was not a serious matter, for some simple threatening could get you out of any real trouble.
In India, parents didn’t consistently rejoice for their daughters the way they rejoice for sons. I saw this firsthand in Bisada, a rural village about a 45-minute motorbike ride away from Delhi. One of our teachers left school to take care of her “second child.” In attending the celebration of her birth, I learned that Anju ma’am had not actually given birth to her child, but had taken her sister’s daughter because her sister didn’t want to keep the girl. They had a pre-arranged agreement that only if a boy were born would the sister keep the baby.
By the time this baby shower happened, the gender selection wasn’t even shocking to me. I saw it everyday in the classroom. My school had students from kindergarten to 10th grade, and as the class got higher (and fees became more expensive), you saw less and less females. All of the students who could “afford” cell phones happened to be males. Families spent more on males because they were simply worth more in their eyes. Girls weren’t worth the extra tuition, the extra milk, the cost of an extra vaccine…
Girls were valued too little to be trusted with decisions like who they should marry or what, or who, happens to their bodies. Females needed to be taught a lesson for going out late with a man who is not family, as five men “taught” Jyoti Singh in December of 2012.
The Most Recent, Well-Documented & Publicized Atrocious Rape in India
Jyoti was a medical student from a poor village. She was a harbinger of hope for the impoverished family, working diligently so that she could support them one day. Early on and contrary to Indian tradition, she told her parents to put the fees saved for her wedding towards her tuition instead.
Before she was able to practice physiotherapy however, she was sexually violated and brutalized when she went to see Life of Pi with a male friend of hers. In what is now known as the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape, five men took turns raping Jyoti and pulling out her intestines before she died days later in a Singaporean hospital.
I watched Leslee Udwin interview these men and their lawyers in her BBC documentary India’s Daughter when it came out in March 2015. I had just returned from India at this point. Outraged and impassioned by the film, I could not even discuss it with my friends in Delhi. They were unable to watch it because the Indian government banned it because it could “threaten public order.”
Horrible India’s Daughter Quotes
“[Rape’s] just like that kind of action. Beat him. Put his hand forcefully inside.” – M. L Sharma, one of the rapists’ defense lawyers.
“If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” – AP Singh, another of the rapists’ defense lawyers.
“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” — Mukesh, one of the convicted rapists.
Short American Rant
Whether you live in India or any other country in the world, don’t take girls for granted. In America, we still have an unacceptable gender pay gap, and abysmal rates of reporting rape and convicting rapists. Need I remind readers that a six-term member of Congress, Todd Akin, argued that women that were raped had a mechanism for somehow blocking the unwanted pregnancy? Or the Steubenville case, in which two teenage football players raped an unconscious young woman, posted the video on social media, and then pleaded the girl not to press charges so that his football career would not be damaged. Most recently, adult film star Stoya accused James Deen of raping her despite her clearly telling him “no, stop, [and] used my safeword.” In a refreshingly positive light, the porn industry quickly believed the accusations and dropped him as a performer. From that same article, I like this segment, helping us to understand what kind of women are often victimized and why:
Part of the reason that rape is hard to prove is that sexist fairytales about what constitutes consent infect judges and juries just as much as the general public. Of the many myths about sexual violence, the most pernicious is that women routinely lie about it. That’s not true; the rates of false reporting for rape and sexual assault are estimated to be around the same as rates of false reporting for any other crime – the current figure is anywhere between 0.2% and 8%. Men are actually more likely to be victims of rape themselves than they are to be falsely accused of it.
Rapists rely on these myths, often targeting women and girls who they know will be too scared to come forward, or who will not be believed. That means women of color, young girls, and sex workers. Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw is currently on trial for allegedly stalking and raping 13 black women and girls, some of whom had previous arrest records for sex work. Serial rapists target the young, the vulnerable and sex workers, knowing how hard it is even for women deemed ‘respectable’ to be taken seriously.
But Most Importantly, Hope Lies in the Proles…
Change starts with you. Believing someone who has confided in you, or gone public wither story, is something small you can do to make this world a more gender-equal and less hostile place to be a woman.
- Be an informed citizen. Make sure all your friends know about what a terrible problem gender inequality is, especially in the developing world but also in America. Change cannot happen before awareness does. This includes pressuring, or pressurizing as they say in India, politicians to care more about these issues. As Kristof wrote in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunities for Women Worldwide, “When India feels that the West cares as much about slavery as it does about pirated DVDs, it will dispatch people to the borders to stop traffickers.” Let’s make sure our government knows we care about women’s rights and safety because the U.S. government isn’t doing enough and won’t until we all demand it. (Namely: that guard telling Nicholas Kristof that he prioritizes trafficked DVDs over women because American companies have a larger stake in pirated cinema). The CARE Action Network (www.can.care.org), can assist you in “speaking out, educating policy makers, and underscoring that the public wants against poverty and injustice.”
- Know that your words matter. They are important and shape culture. Sexist language makes sexism more real. Don’t say “you hit like a girl” or “don’t be a girl.” Think about why women “lose” their virginity yet men “take” someone’s virginity. Anything which demeans, degrades or dehumanize women makes it easier to devalue or violate them.
- Laugh so you don’t cry. Watch John Oliver covering women’s issues here or here.
Suggestions from Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, taken from Half the Sky – all of which can be done in the next four minutes:
- Open an account and www.globalgiving.org and support a grassroots project that focuses on education (which allows a woman better job opportunities, rather than only sex work and the stigma or sexually transmitted diseases that comes with it) or www.kiva.org, where you can support women to start their own business and earn an income independently, again without having to resort to brothel work.
- Sponsor a girl or a woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service. You can exchange letters with your sponsors and even visit them, as Kristof & WuDunn have in the Philippines, Sudan, and the Dominican Republic.
- Sign up for e-mail updates on www.womensnews.org or www.worldpulse.com, which distribute information about abuses of women and sometimes advise actions that readers can take to help these women.
Sarah is a lover of words, foreign films and gastronomic delights. She currently resides in New Jersey, where she is making the most of her gap year before continuing her education. Follow her on Twitter.
When I’m in a conversation with a group, I listen intently. As each person expresses their personal opinion on whatever topic we’re discussing, I settle into their shoes. When people ask me “What do you think?” I stumble. Have I not been talking? Despite my silence, I believe I’ve been actively participating the whole time.
This happens to me a lot. I don’t know why but I much prefer listening than I do talking. More recently, I’ve started to ask myself whether this is a flaw or a strength. Especially in the entertainment industry, women who want to lead need to showcase their strength and prove that they can lead. How can I be a leader if I appear mute?
Starting at a very young age, I was fascinated by the art of storytelling, and often more interested in how a story was told than the actual story itself. I took note of all the movies I had seen that told the exact same story but had different titles. In an attempt to tell my own story, I started exploring my world through the lens of a camcorder I had been gifted for Christmas when I was eight, chronicling my life as an only child with a dog and two French parents in the city of Miami.
I believed I was passionate, always lugging my camcorder everywhere we went and meticulously writing down what events I had captured on each DV tape. Every playdate became about dressing up and taking on a role for Parallel Pictures, a production company founded by my 8-year-old self and presented by my friend Christina holding up two index fingers symbolizing the parallel lines. Similar to the MGM opening with the roaring lion, I’d film my dog looking up at a treat and jumping out of frame to catch it.
As an only child, my world was dense with imagination and curiosity that was satiated with film. I didn’t feel alone or quiet with it. I knew I wanted to pursue a life in the arts and I applied Early Decision to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for a degree in Film & Television Production.
On my first day there, our professor asked the class who wanted to be a Director. This was a difficult question for me to answer. As I thought about it, I started to hear the hands of my peers shoot up and looking around, nearly everyone had raised their hand. I also observed how all those hands belonged to men. Surely, it was a bold question to ask in the beginning of our formal education, but it was worth asking myself: Why don’t I want to direct?
Throughout my time at NYU, I was constantly reminded of the glaring indicator about women in Hollywood. If I have no interest in directing, am I only contributing to the statistic? In 2015, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films. This is the same percentage of women working in these roles in 1998.
After roughly three years of classes and working on set, I realized that I was finding my place in producing: the art of putting all of the elements together to make the film happen. Producers are essentially the behind-the-scenes magic that allows for the Director’s vision to get translated. Still, as a Producer, am I only facilitating the vision that men have by doing the “grunt work”? Am I submitting or am I transcending? Do I need to pave my way as a female Director to prove that I’m a modern woman? If I’m not talking, should I feel bad that I’m quiet?
During my junior year, one of my best friends from the program, Jake Fertig, approached me about an autobiographical feature he wanted to make called Howeds. He was one of the people who had first raised their hand when asked, “Who wants to direct?”
The story was about his adolescence, growing up in a New Jersey suburb where the characters had grown into drinking, dealing drugs, spouting off misogynistic taunts, and committing recreational misdemeanors for thrill. Despite having a dissimilar adolescence, I was drawn to the clutter of ideas. I wanted to help consolidate these ideas and develop treatments that would reflect a realistic production schedule and timeline.
Shortly afterwards, Jake and I started dating. It made things easier and more complicated at the same time. When it came to drafting the script, Jake asked me if I was interested in co-writing and producing the film and without hesitating, I said yes. Why? Was it because I felt I needed to say yes?
Surely, I had the subliminal pressure to be involved in the work that my new partner was so deeply invested in. Still, I recognized this was a real opportunity to represent the female voice within a heavily male-dominated story and to use everything I had learned from producing. I wanted to prove that I could be a powerhouse despite the assumption that I’m only helping because I’m the “girlfriend”.
Recently, Producers have started to get more acknowledgement for their work in film. Veterans like Kathleen Kennedy, a Producer of the new Star Wars film, and newcomers like Megan Ellison, the Producer behind two of the 2013 Best Picture nominees are finally starting to become a part of the conversation. Typically, the Director is in the spotlight but without the Producer, the spotlight can’t be turned on because the stage hasn’t been booked and the lights haven’t been rented and the grips haven’t been hired to turn it on. Even with all of the logistical elements, a Producer is not just the business partner, but the creative and practical—The Director dumps visions and the Producer mediates the execution.
We split principal photography for Howeds into four parts, knowing it would be easier to request the cast and crew to take a week off work as opposed to thirty consecutive days while working unpaid. On a set where people are working unpaid, the resources are low but the expectations are naturally higher because they are not being properly compensated. Simple gestures like lending out hand warmers or serving hot tea in cold temperatures isn’t generous, it’s expected. There are constant production issues that come in the way of being able to have a creative eye on a project I co-wrote. Jake and the Director of Photography, Chris Fox, are constantly asking me to watch the monitor for notes on the scene, but I am busy juggling the vegan’s alternative meal while figuring out how to pick up another cast member from the bus station without an additional car.
And still, despite all of this, everyone is respectful to the Director, who has the responsibility of creating an artistic vision and should not be bogged down with any production issues that are going on behind the scenes, but not necessarily the Producer, who they believe is putting them through these conditions as opposed to protecting them. The Producer also has the responsibility of shielding the Director by tackling all of the questions, concerns, and often, personal dilemmas that a particular cast/crew member is going through. They have given the promise to do everything in their power to make everyone’s experience on the production as positive as possible. Although everyone can see the hard work that the Director exerts, it is often hard for cast and crew to understand all of the work that the Producer has done to make it all possible.
We are naturally more interested in those who appear busy and those we are told not to bother. We assume that they are of a higher status than us and assume our inferiority in that environment. In Hollywood, the Director and Producer are those people. They are the reason that the film is getting made. Some perceive that the Producer is just the moneylender and the Director is the one getting his/her hands dirty on set, slaving away at the creation. In some productions, that’s certainly true.
However, on independent and low-budgeted sets like Howeds, both the Director and the Producer are slaving away, which makes it very easy to feel overlooked and unacknowledged as a Producer. We end up feeling bad, and like we should devalue the role. If I’m being treated like this, then maybe it’s because the role is not important enough. It also confirms the fear that female Producers are contributing to the glaring absence of women in the industry. Even as I type this, Microsoft Word keeps autocorrecting director to Director and doesn’t change Producer when I use a lowercase “p”.
If the conversation is a film, then the Director is talking and the Producer is listening. Do listeners matter? The answer is yes because we can’t have a conversation without them.
Although the Producer’s main responsibility is assembling all of the elements of the set to make the film happen, I believe a Producer should also be creative. If the Director is asking the Producer to help visualize their idea, they should be able to see it and execute it. As a writer on the film, I tackle both the creative and administrative. On set, I’m asked to delineate production tasks so that I’m able to stand behind the monitor and assist in directing. Here, I’m listening. I’m listening to the actors and watching the scene play out. When the rehearsal is over, I take Jake aside and give him my notes.
On one of the last days of class, a professor asked us who still wanted to direct. Only a handful of people now raised their hand, Jake confidently among the group. I’m looking forward to when they’ll start asking students “And, who wants to be a Producer?” I’ll confidently raise my hand.
I’m thankful that we live in a country where Directors and Producers of all genders have paved a road for us and that I have peers who make way for those kind of pioneers for future generations. We aren’t there yet, though, and we need to continue having the conversation. More importantly, we need people to know it’s okay to listen.
Emily is a producer for the independent production company, Perestroika, and a Field PA at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and in her spare time, she likes to stop dogs on the street, watch movies she doesn't fully understand, and hang with her loved ones. Follow her on Twitter @emdalmas.