A Feminist Filmmaker’s Dilemma

by | February 10, 2014
filed under Can-Con, Feminism

still from "Sex On Wheels" showing Amanda on a bike racing her friendsby Amanda Feder

At 24, I found myself faced with a strange and alienating reality, particularly after having just finished the cliché college experience: I found myself having to put effort into finding a date. And then soon after, I found myself making a film about it.

Of course, the short I made, “Sex on Wheels”, is actually about a lot more than that. The film was meant to be a portrait of the bike community in Toronto, as seen through the eyes of an outsider (at 24, I didn’t know how to ride a bike). A running joke I had at the time was how not knowing to ride my bike was killing my dating life, and a series of random/wonderful events turned that idea into a film project.

I’ll spare you the semi-pretentious director’s statement that perhaps no filmmaker can avoid, highlighting all the themes and hidden messages and triumphs that they find in their work, even in something as light as “Sex on Wheels.”

At the end of the day, I found myself, a feminist, to be the director of a film that follows me trying to find a man. And it made me feel weird.

I am in no way saying that women shouldn’t explore the theme of dating in a variety of ways. I also don’t mean to imply that I thought my tiny film was going to influence anyone – most of the screenings of the film were only attended by my friends – those who had seen the film a billion times as I made it and were forced to be supportive (love you guys).

But I found myself feeling uncomfortable submitting the film to women’s film festivals. And then I found myself hesitating to put it on my CV. And then I found myself meeting new and inspiring women, and kind of cringing through my description of my past work.

The personal is political, situated knowledges, the politics of location – feminist mantras run through my head, reassuring me that there is nothing wrong with the work I have created.

But then I think of Julia, my cousin who so graciously agreed to appear in my film. She was four or five years old at the time, but already had the wisdom to sternly advise me on camera that I shouldn’t care what a boy thought of me lacking biking skills. When these oh-so-serious words came out of her mouth, my heart broke in so many ways. Of course my first thought was this is going to make for a fucking amazing scene! But then came the guilt. What will she think of this film when she grows up? What am I teaching her about dating, biking, filmmaking, life’s priorities?

Am I being too dramatic? As an aspiring female filmmaker, what is my social responsibility? What are the implications of what we put out in the world, even something tiny?

What makes a work feminist? Is it found in the vision of the director, or in the interpretation of the audience? Is this even a productive question?

Of course there is so much to say, and only 600 words to say it in. But I wanted to share my initial thoughts about this process, and would love to hear from others.

“Sex on Wheels” is screening online for free in the NSI Online Short Film Festival for the next three months. You can watch the film here.

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  • Jon Rouje

    As a man, I would care if a woman thought I was stupid for not being able to ride a bike… Why is it so weird for you to think that? I don’t understand why being a feminist has to involve actively ignoring and doing the opposite of our natural inclinations to impress the opposite sex and our desire (as human beings, regardless of gender) to be loved and accepted by others. I’m not accusing you of anything. I just don’t understand why feminism in general has to make things into an “us vs. them” kind of thing in which all men can’t be trusted. Frankly, as a “nice guy” I’m sick of all the women that shit on me and use me as an emotional dumping ground to feel better about themselves as they re-assert their confidence after being treated so poorly by assholes. But also, If I’m honest, I would have to admit that I’ve done this to “nice girls” after being treated like shit by mean girls. So really, we are all pretty equal in my book. We are all human beings. It’s 2015. Women have been able to do whatever they want for a long time. And frankly I’m tired of feminism being used as a shield. I’m tired of not being able to say anything in response because in the eyes of most women that automatically makes me a misogynist. I go to a college that is like 80% women. I am the minority. I live in an age of the double standard reversal. We are all human beings. We are all equal. Stop making it about men vs. women. We are just people. All of us. And we are different because of organs and hormones. Welcome to reality. — I hope you don’t take my words harshly, I am not accusing you of something you haven’t done. I’m just saying that as a feminist I hope you will spread the word among other feminists that they need to chill out. Not all men are assholes; plenty of women are, and vice versa… Good luck with your film career. I wish you the best. I hope you find a boyfriend (if you haven’t already) that loves you and treats you right, and I hope I find a girlfriend that does the same. Cheers.