(Please note: the views, experiences and positions expressed within this blog post are those of the author(s) alone and do not necessarily represent the views of everyone involved in the LaDIYfest collective.)
What’s surprising about the trailer – although not entirely unexpected – is the tiny number of women who are featured.
What’s annoying – a frequent part of being a feminist is getting annoyed – is the way those few women are represented.
There’s a young, slim, blonde woman going for a run with her dog in the countryside, and there’s a road cyclist in a full-face helmet who (on a second viewing) we thought might possibly be a woman. Another young, conventionally attractive woman with a nose piercing appears in a soft focus close-up, with a look we could only manage to describe as vacantly seductive (or a bit stoned); a different woman walks, slowly, silhouetted in front of a sunset. Two women – again, attractive, young and blonde – stand together, looking happily at the camera.
The smiles are fine, we’re not against fun. However, what’s striking about these women compared to the men in the trailer is that none of them are pictured in active roles, save, possibly, the lone road cyclist, whose gender seemed ambiguous. Instead of getting messy and sweaty from doing extreme sports, and looking powerful, exhilarated and inspiring, the women in the trailer have a role that’s largely decorative.
They’re a pretty foil to the beard-preening, macho air-punching and (at one point) naked dick-grabbing. They’re also, as far as we could tell, all young, white, conventionally attractive within the narrow boundaries of ‘acceptable’ femininity, and have no visible disabilities.
Obviously, our woman-counting measure isn’t perfect. It’s based on people conforming to a normative idea of what a woman looks like. We’ve not asked everyone in the video how they gender-identify, whether that be as a man, woman, genderqueer, or another identity outside the gender binary.
And one of the great things about outdoor clothing is that often it stops people from guessing at your gender. That is, when women aren’t being forced to buy pastel waterproofs and baby-blue hiking boots (get a grip, manufacturers).
Still, if there are actually lots of women in the trailer but they just happen to be hidden in ski kit or baggy skate clothes – which we doubt, but let’s go with it for a moment – this hardly helps change perceptions of the gender balance in extreme sports, when most of the performers in the clip whose gender is apparent are male.
To give SHAFF some credit, we noticed browsing their website that they are trying to promote films made by and featuring women in what they recognise is a male-dominated industry. Here’s their list of women-centred films at this year’s festival.
However, having a strand which promotes women’s films is self-defeating if the trailer, which will be most people’s encounter with the festival, barely features any women actually doing sports. Please try harder. Maybe even try being adventurous.