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March 17, 2017

Could ReFrame be a game-changer for women in Hollywood?

By Sasha Stone | March 17, 2017

As career statistics for women in film and television continue to flatline, women are not patiently waiting for Hollywood to sluggishly evolve. Instead, women across the spectrum—journalists, critics, producers, directors, screenwriters, and creatives in every conceivable realm—are challenging the system head on in hopes of forcing change where far too many stubborn obstacles still remain.

The numbers paint a frustrating picture. Women account for 51 percent of moviegoers, yet, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, among the 100 highest-grossing films of 2015, only 22 percent of protagonists were women. Only five of those films had female leads or co-leads older than age 45, while 26 featured male leads or co-leads older than age 45. Women directed only 9 percent of the films.

Despite activists raising awareness of these problems, not much has changed. In 2015-16, women represented only 17 percent of directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the 250 highest-grossing films. That rate was lower than the previous year and equal to that of 1998.

But we now seem poised to begin a new era. Women in the industry are pushing for a speedier end to what producer Lucy Fisher called “deep-seated aversion to letting women drive.”

One of the biggest and most promising of these efforts is ReFrame, a new joint project of Women in Film and the Sundance Institute that is made up of 50 industry leaders and influencers, including high-profile names like directors Paul Feig, Kimberly Peirce, and The Black List’s Franklin Leonard; and producers Glen Mazzara, Nina Jacobson, and Michael De Luca, who are committed to educating about, confronting, and reshaping inequality and representation in film and TV. More >>

Image description: Nina Jacobson, producer of the Hunger Games movies, is among the leadership of ReFrame.

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Without IDs, Afghan women remain invisible in the justice system

By Marion Guillaume/Guest Blogger | March 13, 2017

Nargez* was 14 years old when her father arranged her marriage to a 55-year-old stranger who had offered a large amount of money. After years of sexual and physical abuse, she fled with her brother’s help and sought safety in his home. But when she tried to file for divorce, her husband pressed charges against her for running away and against her brother for helping her. They were both sentenced to seven years in jail.

When it comes to justice in Afghanistan, research at Samuel Hall, an independent research and strategic services think tank, shows that women are at a disadvantage in accessing and navigating the legal system, and are thereby particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In the wake of International Women’s Day, it is worth revisiting the gaps in protection for Afghan women.

The Afghan justice system, which juggles traditional customs, Islamic law, and Western-supported legal reforms, is under immense strain. It is challenged by insurgents, the remoteness of much of the country’s population, and a lack of proper understanding and application of the laws. More >>

Image description: A girl attends a meeting in Afghanistan where women speak about their economic, educational, and health issues. (DVIDSHUB)

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An interview with Hanne Larsen, the college-aged director of ‘The Sex Myth’

By Julie Zeilinger | March 17, 2017

In 2015, feminist journalist Rachel Hills published The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality—a book that questions the sexual norms and expectations with which younger generations have been raised. In 2016, Northeastern University student Hanne Larsen adapted the book into a work of devised theater. Now Hills and director Dana Edell want to bring Larsen’s theatrical vision of the book to campuses across the country.

Larsen recently talked to the FBomb about her experience as a female director and creative, and why this show is an important part of dispelling the “sex myth.” More >>

Image description: ‘The Sex Myth’

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The brilliance of ‘Get Out’

By Kadin Burnett | March 14, 2017

*Spoiler Alert*: This review contains details about the plot of the movie.

The film Get Out opens on a single shot that, just like the film as a whole, manages to brilliantly capitalize on horror tropes to illuminate the terror of racial stereotypes and racism. Terror in suburbia is a staple of the horror genre—a staple Get Out immediately subverts by opening on a masked figure stalking an unwitting victim—a black man. The shot is followed immediately by a credits montage set to “Redbone” by Childish Gambino—a song that recounts a sinister and manipulative dishonest relationship and warns the victim to “stay woke,” and in turn foreshadows the relationship at the center of the film. This artful scene is just one of many that prove Get Out to be one of the most necessary and captivating films in recent years.

Get Out revolves around a young, African-American man named Chris Washington, his Caucasian girlfriend, Rose Armitage, and their trip to Rose’s parents’ lakefront estate in upstate New York. Despite Chris’ apprehensions about meeting her family—“Do they know I’m black?” he asks Rose before meeting them—the couple ventures out of Brooklyn and toward the secluded manor of the Armitage home. What follows is a horror film that differentiates itself from the usual jump-scare, teens-in-danger tropes of the genre by seamlessly infusing unique racial commentary into the narrative. The sly, almost psychotically understated utilization of micro-aggressions incorporated throughout director Jordan Peele’s masterful film heightens the humor and discomfort at the heart of the film’s slow-burning path to an ultimately paralyzing sense of dread. More >>

Image description: ‘Get Out’

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Addressing gendered online harassment

By Gabby Catalano | March 13, 2017

Last summer, my friend Katie* received an Instagram message from a man who claimed to know her. When she ignored him, he commented several times on her photos: “hey baby,” “bad girl,” “sexy,” “I knew you were bad,” and “you bitch” were only a few of the degrading messages she received. She blocked him on Instagram, but he then sent her multiple Facebook and Twitter messages. Katie felt so embarrassed, violated, and harassed that she decided to delete all of her social media accounts.

Katie’s experience is, unfortunately, hardly an anomaly; she is just one of the one in six women who will be stalked in her lifetime. In 2016, 26 percent of young women aged 18-24 were stalked online, and 25 percent were the target of online sexual harassment. In contrast, only about 7 percent of men were stalked online and 13 percent were sexually harassed. Women and girls are also more likely than men to experience online harassment on a social networking site or app; in fact, gendered online harassment is at risk of becoming an established “norm,” according to one study.

Women and members of other marginalized groups face not only stalking and harassment, however, but also the public invasion of their privacy. There are plenty of websites that publish photographs of naked women (and even underage girls) that have been obtained without their consent. This nonconsensual publication of sexually graphic images is known as “revenge porn,” and many times, these publications even include women’s full names, email addresses, and other personal information. This abuse is downright malicious and can result in women feeling afraid to leave abusive relationships or even contemplating suicide. Some victims—like the founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative—have had to change their names and identities because of this abuse. More >>

Image description: Let’s take online harassment seriously.

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An interview with award-winning teen activist filmmaker Jordan Barger

By Julie Grave | March 10, 2017

Jordan Barger is a junior in high school from Houston, Texas. She also happens to be an award-winning filmmaker who has her own production company, JOM Productions. Barger’s short film, “Milky White // Rosy Petals,” has been shown at three film festivals around the U.S.; she won Best Student Film at the Austin Revolution Film Festival; and she was nominated for the Best Youth Filmmaker at the Long Beach Indie International Film Festival.

In light of recent political controversies surrounding President Donald Trump, Barger has begun to approach filmmaking from a perspective of political activism. I asked her about how film can be an activist tool, and how she sees political activism evolving among our generation. More >>

Image description: Jordan Barger

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The fight against the single story: ‘Speed Sisters’ Amber Fares and Rabab Haj Yahya on sisterhood, resilience, and the importance of human connection

By Angela Liu | March 9, 2017

Being the first takes courage. Putting yourself in a position of vulnerability, stepping out of your comfort zone, and risking failure can be terrifying—but also hugely rewarding. It’s an experience five women in Palestine who formed the Middle East’s first completely female race-car-driving team know well—and one at the center of the documentary Speed Sisters, which tracks the team’s journey over the course of two racing seasons, as they strive to better themselves, each other, and their communities.

When I watched Speed Sisters, I was amazed at how easily I connected with each of the characters even though they live half a world away from me. The film’s unique authenticity and warmth is in huge part thanks to the collaboration of two women: director and producer Amber Fares and film editor Rabab Haj Yayha. Fares has long worked with global organizations like Amnesty International and the United Nations. She believes in personal storytelling as a means of exploring difficult social issues and in the importance of allowing strong, personal connections to form between the subjects of a documentary and its viewers—ideals which are flawlessly executed in Speed Sisters. Haj Yayha is a New York-based film editor who was born and raised in Palestine. She joined the filmmaking team as the film editor, and lent her personal knowledge of Palestinian culture and society to the editing process to ultimately help craft an insightful, heartwarming, and inspiring documentary.

I spoke with Fares and Haj Yayha about their filmmaking process, the experience of living in Palestine and working with the Speed Sisters, and the global impact of their film. More >>

Image description: Speed Sisters

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WMC Live #200: Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Kathleen Barry. (Original Airdate 3/12/2017)

Robin on the abuse of women Marines, the gutting of our government, and defining the social compact. Guests: Erica Armstrong Dunbar's Never Caught on George Washington's pursuit of a runaway slave; Kathleen Barry's creative way to spread feminism. Listen here >>

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This week WMC SheSource features experts on President Trump’s budget, Iowa Congressman Steve King’s pro-white nationalist comments, the Affordable Care Act vote happening this week, the sixth anniversary of the Syrian War, and Developmental Disability Awareness Month.

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