I have ‘liked’ friends’ posts, made intermittent comments, but the more I see, the more strongly I feel that we as a community have failed. And we have failed miserably.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely consider myself a feminist, and I am outspoken on pretty much everything I believe in, from equality for all, freedom of speech, inclusion, and the sanctity of art in all of its forms. I am not one to stay silent. But I have been troubled by all the recent news stories surrounding Cinefamily and Alamo, and how we have failed to protect women at these institutions.
No, I have never worked at either organization. But I still feel a certain amount of responsibility for what has transpired, and that it has been going on for such a long time. If I’m being completely frank, I believe that the entire independent film community, from producers, directors, distributors, exhibitors, and critical publications, should be looking inward at how they have helped to create this atmosphere where men feel empowered to treat women as if they are objects to possess, rather than living, breathing humans with intrinsic worth equal to their own.
Something is very, very wrong, and it apparently has been for a very, very long time. As more and more women come forward and new stories come to light, I can’t help but feel strong pangs of guilt that this was happening right under my nose. I was lucky enough to work within an organization where I didn’t feel as though my worth was based solely on my physical appearance, but clearly, not everyone was/is.
I have read the email in which a female employee was at a conference where she was forced to share a room with a single bed with her male boss, which made her very uncomfortable, and was told to ‘deal with it’. Every time I think about this, it makes my stomach turn. Not because it is a despicable thing to do to a person (which it absolutely is), but because I was at that conference.
I don’t personally know this woman, but I’m sure I saw her over the course of those three days. It is a small enough community I couldn’t have never seen her. I did see her boss, seemingly everywhere, being adored by the masses for his ability to spark love for movies in young people. Now I can’t help but go through every moment I remember of every conference I went to, wondering what I was missing that was right there in front of me, along with three hundred other people.
That’s the part that gets me. In a room of that many people, who are all espousing values of inclusion, equality, and art, this woman felt she had no one she could go to for help. Let me say that again: she had no one she could go to for help.
What does that say about the community? What does that say about us?
It says some very unpleasant things.
Things that need to be addressed immediately.
As a member of the independent film community, I feel it is the responsibility of all of us to speak up, say something, and make real change. Yes, there are more women in positions of power within the independent film community, but there are still not enough (For the record, I would include that there are not enough people of color, LGBT, trans, and other marginalized people in positions of power in the independent film community as well.). There are still many non-profit boards that are solely comprised of men (white men at that), organizations that are headed by white men as Executive Director, and women end up reporting to them.
There is too much talk about how to create fans, and not enough talk about inclusion and support for marginalized people. That is how we got here: by trying to be cool.
Well, I was never cool, and I’m not cool now.
So here is what I am saying. Instead of holding a conference where this community talks about donor development, branding, and the merits of programming repertory cinema, we need to talk about the community itself. Here are a few talking points for the panel discussions:
- How can we empower staff to report hostile work environments?
- How can we create an environment of community, inclusion, and safety among our volunteers?
- How can we ensure that our boards are comprised of people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities?
- How can we bridge across our individual organizations to provide support to other organizations that may need it, and create a larger sense of community, inclusion, and support?
- How can we train our boards, Executive Directors, staff, volunteers, donors, members, filmmakers, and audiences to respect one another as people of equal value, equal voice, and equal contributions?
- How can we be better?
Without serious discussions, there will never be improvement. It will not just go away. It has to be eradicated, with active solutions to change behavior and attitude. So now, it's time for the independent film community to put their money where their mouths are, and stop paying lip service to ideas that are not being practiced. Be better, friends. I know we can, if we work together.