“In the early 1970s when I arrived in New York from Paris, there definitely was the desire to invent a female gaze. Women started to shoot films made by women and also for women. We all felt that men had shown their point of view since the beginning of the world and we now should try to find if we could invent a new language that would be different from the one of our fathers or lovers.”
-Babette Mangolte, Cinematographer, “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”
We need a feminist intervention in cinema. Even though women’s bodies have been at the center of cinema’s voyeuristic pleasure, historically, women have mostly been in front of the camera, being told what to do, and not behind the camera directing what reality to stage. There is a great imbalance in the number of male directors telling women’s stories, versus, women self-representing their lived realities in cinema.
In today’s world there is no ‘one’ feminist ideology or vision, feminism today is not a single vision, it is rather “a visionary way of seeing”. Today there is no ‘one’ type of feminist films, rather there are films made by different women, representing diverse women, depicting ranges of experiences, feelings and senses women feel.
Creating scope for women to tell their stories through the visual medium of cinema is a step towards equality because these stories and representations diversify the male/main stream regime of images our world is so saturated with. Films about women’s lived experiences represented in cinema can create room in the public psyche about women as complex individuals, not just as subsidiaries and cultural icons. In cinema, the male gaze looks while the female body is looked at; the gaze can come from the audience, from a male character within the film, or from the camera itself. One may ask, what is the female gaze, then? I love how Tory Telfer defines it,” it’s [female gaze] emotional and intimate. It sees people as people. It seeks to empathize rather than to objectify. (Or not.) It’s respectful, it’s technical, it hasn’t had a chance to develop, it tells the truth, it involves physical work, it’s feminine and unashamed, it’s part of an old-fashioned gender binary, it should be studied and developed, it should be destroyed, it will save us, it will hold us back.”