Embrace the F-word
by Aimée Lagos
No, this is not going to be a pitch for the MPAA to allow more than two F-bombs before issuing an R rating (although I do think it’s absolutely insane that they find it of paramount importance to shield our children from hearing that word but feel fine about having them watch people murdered en masse by gun wielding super villains – but that is a topic for another day). The F word I’m talking about is “Feminist” and the fact that you just thought about clicking on a different link is exactly why I’m writing this. The word feminist so often provokes an automatic eye-roll that silently says, “Stop whining and get on with it – if you can’t roll with the big boys take your boobs and go home.” I believe that is an attitude we can no longer afford to take.
Like it or not our industry is a culture shaper – responsible for many of the stories and images that help determine how our daughters and sons see themselves in the world, and we have a responsibility to them to be better. The reality is that we’ve lost some serious ground in the movement toward womens’ equality and suddenly basic things like contraception, equal pay, the right to choose are all back on the table, so now is not the time to stand in front of millions of viewers and make boob jokes.
First, let me be clear about what I mean when I call myself a feminist. I mean that I am in favor of equality for women. I mean that I believe that women and girls should be afforded basic human rights. I believe that girls should be allowed to go to school just like their brothers. I believe that women and girls should not be mutilated or killed for looking at a man or for being the tragic victim of a rape. I believe that all women should have the right to determine what happens to their own bodies without governmental involvement. I believe that women should get equal pay. I believe that women should be respected for what they do and who they are. I believe that all of the aforementioned things are inextricably linked. In short, I support women. Period. That’s what makes me a feminist.
I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember having thoughts in my head and I’ve always been pretty vocal about it. But to be completely honest, when I began working in Hollywood, I suddenly got a lot quieter on the topic. Very early on it became abundantly clear to me that if I wanted to be taken seriously in this town, a slightly foul mouth and a willingness to objectify other women would send the message that yes, I can roll with the big boys and you’re not going to hear me whine about it.
I, self professed feminist that I am, have sat in notes meeting on a script I’d written and not flinched when executives and Hollywood mogul producers wanted me to add a scene where the female protagonist was forced at gunpoint to get naked – “just to make it a little sexier.” I took the attitude that by succeeding as a female director and writer I was doing more to promote equality for women than anything else I could do. That was a cop out. And it took becoming a mother of a little girl a few months ago to make me realize that.
As I sat the other evening playing with my daughter and watching the Academy Awards show, I suddenly found myself feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Had my inaction made it so that my daughter was facing growing up in a culture where phenomenally successful women at the top of their game in an incredibly male dominated industry were still being reduced to the butt of a boob joke? Was that the take away from the stunning performances by courageous women portraying horrific acts of violence against women, “we saw your boobs?” I realized then that it’s not enough to succeed. We must insist on respect for that success and we must not smile through degradation to prove we’re tough and we have a sense of humor. I have a good sense of what’s humorous and this definitely was not.
I know that compared to the horrific atrocities that so many women around the world face everyday the problem of being the butt of a boob joke can seem slightly innocuous, but I assure you it is not. To deny that there is a connection between the atrocities women around the world face daily and the ease with which we accept the degradation of women and their reduction to being nothing but boobs on an internationally televised event before millions of viewers is to ultimately misunderstand the power of speech and the power of what we do here in Hollywood. What we do sets a tone – are women to be respected or are they simply there to be exploited? The messages we send matter and it is time to send the message that we respect and believe in women. It’s time for both men and women to stand up and say we’re better than this and we believe our sons and daughters deserve better than this. It’s time to embrace the F-word, not because we’re angry, but because we’re hopeful and we believe that true equality among humans of all genders is not only possible, but fundamentally necessary in a truly free society. It’s time because what we do in Hollywood does matter and our children are watching.Tags: Aimée Lagos, Feminism, Gender equality, Hollywood, Hollywood's cultural influence, Sexism, Writer-Director