For the past 7 years, I’ve been working with and training the next generation of female and gender non-conforming filmmakers. I have learned so much from working with these teens and I know our future will be in good hands if we can survive the present. For the past few months, we have been working with an elite team of female and gender non-conforming filmmakers as they produce a documentary about their experiences while coming of age in the Times Up and Me Too era. What has struck me the most with seeing these young women in action is recognizing how much mental space and energy they expend each and every day trying to get through it without being harassed or discriminated against. They have to navigate dress codes at school and during after school sports. They deal with being cat called as they head to the cafe to meet up with friends. They hear adults that they admire casually say things that are hurtful or sexualizing. They have to think about where they park, what they wear, who they can trust anytime they go out. Even in the safety of their own homes they can’t fully relax since social media and traditional media is still fraught with mixed messages and the sexualization of their lives.
Their experiences are heartbreaking and hard to hear. It makes me worry about their mental health and overall safety. Additionally, I’m worried for our society at large- all this time and energy young women have to expend to navigate a world that still tells them they are less than. What if young women could just get up and move through their day without worrying about how their outfit will be perceived? What if they could go to class and not have to consider whether or not they’re asking too many questions? Or not enough questions? What would happen if they didn’t have so much psychic space taken up with trying to conform into a box that never even considered them in the first place? How many of them wouldn’t avoid careers that they would flourish in because they don’t see themselves represented, therefore thinking it’s off limits to them? What if they could just take up space?
The young filmmakers we work with are brilliant and courageous. They come from diverse backgrounds and hold strong opinions. I’ve witnessed them navigate the difficult subject of their documentary in a way that diplomats could learn from. They are naturally intersectional in their approach to this documentary and are deeply solution oriented. Over and over again, they say that the space Reel Stories holds for them is unique because they don’t have to conform in any way here.
What if the rest of the world was this way? Take a moment to think of all the problems we could solve if we freed up this psychic space for young women and gender non-comforming folks. Instead of trying to fit in to feel safe, they could dream and innovate.