WFF2008: Interview with "What's Your Point, Honey?" filmmaker Amy Sewell
Post by Katjusa Cisar on 4/5/2008 10:07am
Amy Sewell hems and haws when she is faced with the question of how feminism fits into her documentary, WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Your Point, Honey? (world premiere this Sunday at the film festival). First she says it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t about feminism. Then she says it is, Ã¢â‚¬Å“but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrapped upÃ¢â‚¬Â in a new way.
The film addresses womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s role in politics, but writer/producer Sewell (Mad Hot Ballroom) and writer/director Susan Toffler avoided the F-word.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Susan and I crafted this so carefully. A feminist movie would be shot down in a minute. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a demonized word,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Sewell in a recent interview. They tried to Ã¢â‚¬Å“forget about the word,Ã¢â‚¬Â and instead let the voices of four different age groups of young women shine through: tweens, teens, college students and 28-year-olds.
The title of the documentary comes from a political cartoon that shows Hillary Clinton pointing at a list of countries that already have had a female head of state: England, Norway, Poland, Latvia, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Israel, Serbia, Germany, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia, Liberia, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua and Haiti.
Uncle Sam is asking her, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your point, honey?Ã¢â‚¬Â
The movie follows seven college students who are taking part in a CosmoGirl initiative to cultivate a crop of women to be ready for a presidential bid in 2024. Interspersed with footage of the CosmoGirl internship in New York City are interviews with younger girls and older women.
One of the seven interns is Margot Presley, a 22-year-old Deluth, Minn., native who graduated from U.W.-Madison in December. With a degree in Sociology and WomenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Studies, she identifies strongly as a feminist and was surprised when she found out that not all of her fellow interns considered themselves feminists.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I just assumed that everyone would be a feminist. I got a lot of Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ from people, which is good for discussion,Ã¢â‚¬Â Presley said. The feminists of today are more inclusive, she added, and less willing to Ã¢â‚¬Å“play the identity cardÃ¢â‚¬Â and break off into little factions. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now, when it comes to including men, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing a better job.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Still, in her current job working with high risk youth, Presley works Ã¢â‚¬Å“with a lot of young men, and feminism means something different to them. They say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœI donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to do that.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Semantics and linguistic politics aside, Sewell believes that pushing for gender equality is just as vital now as it was 30 years ago: Ã¢â‚¬Å“If we continue to shove it under the rug as we have since Reagan, then my daughters and those people in their 20s are in for a big surprise.Ã¢â‚¬Â
What drove feminism during its second wave in the 60s (birth control, higher education) is now being supplanted by sports and strong fathers who put Ã¢â‚¬Å“bravado and hutzpah behind their daughters,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Sewell, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Girls are tougher now because they learn to compete at a younger age.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But a gap in gender awareness occurs between age 10 and about age 40 for women, she added. The 10-year-olds that she interviewed for the documentary were Ã¢â‚¬Å“as smart as theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re ever going to be. Ten-year-olds tell the truth.Ã¢â‚¬Â When she and Toffler sent ten-year-olds out to interview people about what it would be like to a have a female president, she said they went out like Ã¢â‚¬Å“little Michael Moores.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Meanwhile many 28-year-olds are Ã¢â‚¬Å“stuck in a holeÃ¢â‚¬Â that they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get out from under until about age 40.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not due to stupidity, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quick to add, but a societal symptom of general attitudes about womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rights: Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re so oppressed that we just settled. Men would never settle for making 23 cents less. If men got pregnant, they would own their bodies whether theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re conservative or liberal. If child- and eldercare fell to men, corporations would take more responsibility for it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Despite this, Sewell said she has immense faith in the current generation of young women to make strides in equality: Ã¢â‚¬Å“When I venture out of my 45-year-old 'mom' world and into 'your worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ [of a 26-year-old], your generation has so much power to make change. You've all proven this to be true with the green movement and certainly with the power of push behind Obama.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think overall, that is why Susan Toffler and I made this movie and presented it the way we did -- there is a baton being passed on a job we didn't finish or get to finish or didn't continue. It's not that we are Ã¢â‚¬Ëœold and lazyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ -- it's just that the topic of gender inequality needs to be looked at in a fresh new way.Ã¢â‚¬Â
WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Your Point, Honey? will be shown on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in the Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St.