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Old Blog

Failing Better


Posted by: Michelle Haimoff

Cross posted on genfem.com

NY Times film critic Manohla Dargis wrote a piece this past weekend on women in Hollywood, in which she argues that women filmmakers are consistently ignored by production companies, by the Academy, and by critics (only 10% of the 600 movies reviewed by the Times this year were directed by women). She also argues that it is much more difficult for a woman to recover from a box office disappointment than a man.

In a follow-up interview with Jezebel’s Irin Carmon, Dargis says: “You can be a male filmmaker and if you’re perceived as a genius – a boy genius or a fully-formed adult genius – that you are allowed to fail in a way that a woman is not allowed to fail.”

Dargis expounds on the sexism in Hollywood, which ranges from “one guy after another smiling in a baseball cap” making deals with other guys, to terrible movies about women that women see because they’re “starved for representations of themselves.”

Perhaps the most demoralizing thing she said was, “I had a female studio chief a couple of years ago tell me point blank that she wasn’t hiring a woman to do an action movie because women are good at certain things and not others. If you have women buying that bullshit how can we expect men to be better?”

She hit on something that applies to every field: Woman have to start helping other women. This doesn’t mean that women should give other women as much as of a chance as they would give men. This means prioritizing women over men. Giving women jobs over men. Paying them more. Female affirmative action.

Dargis implores Sandra Bullock’s production company to “start giving female filmmakers a chance to do something other than dopey romances.” All of us should start giving women a chance.

We’ve been socialized to devalue women, if not just by virtue of living in a society where the president and god and the faces on currency are men. We’ve been socialized to devalue women more than we know. We have to compensate for this by putting women first, even if they screw up. When men fail, their failure is considered part of the process. When women fail, it proves what we knew all along.

As Samuel Beckett once famously wrote, “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Women can’t fail better unless they are given the chance.