The start of the new year is, for better or worse, a moment to pause, consider, and resolve. If you’re like me, most of those resolutions won’t amount to much. It’s arbitrary on a number of levels and a bit silly (no, you’re not going to start doing pushups every morning, and no, you’re almost certainly not taking up hang-gliding), but it’s as good a reason as any to tackle something new. Me? I’m resolved to completing the 52 Films By Women challenge.
Why is this necessary? On a macro level, the persistent inequality in the studio system, in distribution, and in availability means women directors are pervasively underseen and underpromoted. The question isn’t whether “their” films are any good; it’s whether they get to make films at all, and whether we get to see them. The soft exclusion of half the population from meaningful participation in one of our most impactful media is a scandal. Think of how much we’re missing.
On the micro level, for me, it’s necessary because, as much as it pains me to say so, I’m as guilty as anyone of failing to seek them out. Despite the Counter-Programming series — the entire idea of which is to introduce myself (and readers) to films by non-straight, non-Western, non-dudes, and (theoretically) thereby monkeywrenching the canon — less than 10% of the films I watched last year were by women directors. This isn’t meant to be self-flagellating or a performance of wokeness — I like horror movies and genre films and silents, and there just aren’t a ton of these directed by women.
But so what? This means I need to try harder to find ones that are.
If we’re serious about representation in the arts — and, for that matter, about representation itself — we all need to try harder. I’ve pledged to watch 52 films by women this year, and hope to exceed that. It’s frankly a low bar.
I’m posting this here so you can keep me honest, and join me, if so inclined. On every level, women have been involved in cultural production since the birth of the cinema — particularly in the editing room in the early days. But this is a shorthand for expanding our viewing experience.
It’s flat-out ludicrous how much our conceptions of The Auteur are coded masculine. Let’s fuck it up.