MOUNTING HYPOCRISY AND THE FEMINIST TURNIP FIELD

Last Saturday the Spanish Academy of Cinema honoured the best films produced in 2017 with its Goya Awards. The attendants were offered a red fan decorated with the hashtag #+Mujeres, intended to demand that more women are hired by the Spanish film industry in all its sectors, not just acting. Apparently, some attendees (including women and Albert Rivera) rejected the fans with the (poor) excuse that this type of feminist campaigning is losing its edge and, anyway, they didn’t feel like endorsing yet another hashtag.

The award for Best Film Director went to (Catalan) Isabel Coixet, the only woman nominated in this category, whereas the award for Best Newcomer in Film Direction went to another (Catalan) woman, Carla Simón, also the only female nominee. As a woman I don’t feel too happy. Simón’s film, Estiu 1993, has been earning much critical praise since its release and her winning this Goya seems right. But Coixet’s The Library has not been welcomed in the same way and, frankly, her Goya appears to be a hypocritical, belated acknowledgement of women by the Academy rather than a well-deserved win. I’m also very much against the idea of a film made in a foreign language winning the Goya for Best Film, call me prejudiced.

As actor Leticia Dolera quipped to one of the two male presenters (no comment!) the whole ceremony read as a pure exercise in hypocrisy, with its “nice feminist turnip field”. I must stress that I didn’t agree either with the feminist rant that Pepa Charro, a.k.a. La Terremoto de Alcorcón, was allowed to perform, for lack of a better word. Sounding bitter against all men, rather than encouraging to women, she again used the jaded stereotype according to which women film directors make intimate films that women enjoy best, and male film directors make stupid, gross action films for men which women hate. I really tire of all this prejudice: some action films are great, others trash; some intimate films are great, others trash. Can’t we, as women, be given also the option to freely enjoy what we want (erm, provided it’s not awfully misogynistic)? Can’t we stop thinking in gender binary terms never ever? Isn’t it time to demand that we have more gay, lesbian, transsexual, intersexual, asexual directors, too? Wasn’t Handia, directed by two men, unfairly robbed of its Goya to the Best Film?

The Goya gala but also the Grammy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards and, as we’ll see, the Oscars, run full of this pro-feminist hypocrisy, which is not true feminism. In many ways.

The spoof newspaper El Mundo Today, which is fast becoming my reference news media…, exposed this constant insincerity in its piece on the Golden Globes. If you recall, actresses decided to wear black dresses to show their disconformity with Hollywood sexualisation of the red carpet and of women generally. The clever comedians that write El Mundo Today quickly saw behind the ruse and called their article “We rank the prettiest women in the Golden Globes but also mention the feminism of the gala” (my translation) (https://www.elmundotoday.com/2018/01/hacemos-un-ranking-y-puntuamos-a-las-mas-guapas-de-los-globos-de-oro-pero-mencionando-tambien-el-feminismo-de-la-gala/). The piece was illustrated with photos of beautiful (mostly white) women wearing pricey gowns and jewellery that most women in the world only see in red-carpet photo galleries. The caption for Nicole Kidman’s photo (she was ranked the prettiest, best dressed woman) was this text: “Y aquí está, la mujer de más calidad de la gala, en la redacción lo tenemos claro. #metoo #whywewearblack #fitness #beauty #hot #celebrities #body #bodypositive #perfection #naturalbeauty #makeup #feminism #oldwomen”. So much for (feminist) hashtag campaigns.

My other favourite article about the current patriarchal crisis in Hollywood published by El Mundo Today was inspired by Ridley Scott’s erasing of sexual abuser Kevin Spacey from his latest film, called… All the Money in the World. No comment! The online newspaper announced that “Hollywood digitally erases all the men from its film repertoire” (https://www.elmundotoday.com/2017/12/hollywood-elimina-digitalmente-a-todos-los-hombres-de-su-repertorio-de-peliculas/). This, again, highlights the immense hypocrisy behind the scapegoating of just Spacey. By the way, Scott eliminated Spacey because he feared that his film would bomb at the box office, not out of any need to vindicate Spacey’s (male) victims. Then he proceeded to re-shoot some scenes, paying male lead Mark Wahlberg 1.5$ million and female lead Michelle Williams… 1000$ (Wahlberg donated his salary to the #TimesIsUp campaign but only after the scandal erupted). Incidentally, Spacey’s replacement in All the Money in the World, Christopher Plummer (originally rejected for the part because of Scott’s ageism against him) has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. I’m 100% sure that he’ll win, again because of all this hypocrisy. Wahlberg should present the award, with Spacey. And Woody Allen. And Diane Keaton. And Matt Damon. And Alec Baldwin. And Catherine Deneuve.

More of the same… I won’t discuss Ivanka Trump’s attempt to join the #TimeIsUp campaign following Oprah Winfrey’s rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards, despite the hilarious twits it got in reply (and more serious ones: “Does this mean you’ll help to impeach your dad?”). I won’t discuss, either, the mad idea of making ultra-capitalist ex-reality show host Winfrey the next President after ultra-capitalist ex-reality show host Trump, no matter how female and African-American she is. I’d mention, instead, the speech by Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy, who managed to drew fire and anger from many women in the music industry at the Grammy Awards by urging them to simply “step up”, as if a) they were too lazy to do anything for themselves, b) there was not an army of bigoted patriarchal men ready to stamp on their feet. Men like Portnow are the ones that make the hypocrisy of the apparently pro-feminist new climate most obvious. You don’t have to tell the women to “step up” but your patriarchal buddies to “step down”, understood?

Next, the quarrel between the American feminists and the French women who signed a sort of manifesto against the #MeToo campaign basically arguing that seduction will die if men’s flirty ‘attentions’ are not welcomed. Catherine Deneuve and 100 other French women put their names to the open letter published in Le Monde, a document which, deplorable as it is in revealing these women’s enslavement to patriarchy, also puts the finger on an important issue: we’re not examining how each culture builds its own sexual codes.

By failing to do that we’re allowing ourselves to be swamped by an ideological discourse which is 100% American. I do not mean with this that the contents of the unpardonable French letter are acceptable–I got from reading it the impression that we women are dogs grateful for their master’s patriarchal attention (pat on the head, pat on the bottom, same thing!). No. What I mean is that, as French sociologist Gilles Lipovetsky argued in The Third Woman (and that was back in 1997) the idea of female victimhood plays a much bigger role in the American understanding of gender relations than in French gender culture. Lipovetsky actually condemns American culture for instilling such fear in women that they are easy to prey on and victimize, whereas French women, he claims, are schooled in the idea that men will try to approach them in any way they can and this is why they need to fence for themselves. Deneuve’s letter is an extrapolation of that idea, though, of course, it is based on the very French idea of seduction, which stops short of coercion, and fails woefully to understand abuse, which is, precisely, based on coercion.

When I see the poor victims of the monster Larry Nassar explain in the courtroom that they are not victims but survivors what I think is that we need to raise young girls with a much greater awareness of the dangers of abuse and of their need (and right) to defend themselves. This is not victim-blaming, it’s society-blaming: if you’re not told that the wolf is chasing you, nor are you trained to identify him and defend yourself, all of society fails, for you cannot pretend there are no wolves. The two women judges who have sentenced Nassar to die in prison allowed the survivors to give long statements about the horrors suffered; then they declared how proud they were of the girls’ courage as they publicly shamed the abuser. I just wish the girls could have been given the support to use their courage much earlier, to stop the attacker from hurting them.

If Nassar managed to abuse more than 200 patients this was, to begin with, because the girls, many very young children, didn’t understand what was happening to them. This is where the hypocrisy begins: with the wrong puritanical belief that the protection of children’s innocence (specially girls) means keeping them ignorant of the ugly realities of the most disgusting aspects of patriarchal male sexuality. You would not leave a little girl in the middle of the street to be run down by a car, so why not teach her as soon as possible to identify sexual danger and downright abuse? This would not save all of them, of course, but it might help many. Also, nobody would silence them if they reported what is now coyly called ‘misconduct’. Believe it or not, someone in the University of Michigan told the girls complaining that Dr. Nassar had inserted his fingers in their vagina that this kind of rape is standard medical treatment. The girls, befuddled and scared as they may have been, had to swallow this revolting excuse for abuse. This university, by the way, continued billing one of the mothers for sessions during which her poor daughter was being abused by the monster. This should be also punishable with jail.

Let me take a deep breath here and send my support to all the women (and men!) who are breaking their silence.

There are days when I wake up and I think that as a woman I am a barely tolerated creature, living in the tiny spaces patriarchy allows for me and others like me. This is not equality at all. I am also dismayed to realize, in view of all this hypocrisy, that patriarchy is trying to curb down its most blatant sexism (racism, ageism, homophobia, etc.) to stay in power under a new disguise, apparently more benevolent. Its hegemonic circles are proclaiming that a new era begins now, but this will still be an era of hierarchical dominance. More women will be given access to misogynistic industries, like cinema or videogames, but this will not significantly change any institution. I can myself see how the female majority in the Humanities school where I work has not really changed its structures: just the tone. And this is what I fear will happen in all fields. We seem to be moving towards a renewal of patriarchy, in which the composition of the social pyramid’s pinnacle might change but not the pyramid itself.

The red fan of the Goyas was wrong: we don’t need #+Women, we need to #EndPatriarchy. Dismantle the pyramid, build a circle. And stop tolerating hypocrisy for this is what keeps patriarchy in its dominant position.

I publish a new post every Tuesday (for updates follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from: https://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. My web: https://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

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