Film review applauds inequality

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Fringe contest fosters London filmmakers”
March 26, 2009

To the editor:
I was disappointed that Mr. Filipowich failed to mention the highly derogatory and violent nature of The Dirty Bird in his review of the Fringe contest. On the contrary, he actually sang its praises, including it in the categories of “ingenuity” and not looking “low-budget.”

The reason this upsets me is simple: this film, in plain terms, portrayed rape as a joke. Anyone who remembers the infamous 2007 Gazette Spoof Issue that also portrayed rape as a joke will know this is not an occurrence to take lightly.

It amazes me that such a film was even screened, let alone awarded; it’s not exactly cutting-edge or original to oppress women. It is a testament to the utter ignorance, privilege and disconnection from human suffering of the filmmaker, the audience, and the organizers and judges of the Fringe that this film would a) be shown at all b) be thought of as humorous and c) most shocking of all, be legitimated and encouraged with an award.

How dare honour be given to the perpetuation and acceptance of violence against women by men; this is not an isolated incident, this is something that happens to your daughters, sisters, mothers, friends, co-workers and the people you pass on the street. If you think that laughing at its representation in a film is harmless, even high art, I doubt you’d be the one these people would tell about such a heart-wrenching and traumatizing event.

Why does it matter? Because rape is a mechanism of gender inequality, not merely a symptom of it and de-contextualizing rape, making rape a joke, is what sustains this inequality. It ties gender inequality and gendered violence to humour and pleasure, desensitizing people to its effects in real life.

It is not about being politically correct or some people finding it offensive, but about human dignity and human rights.

Some ask why one can’t just enjoy the film’s aesthetics. In response I would argue (as do scholars such as A. W. Eaton) that you cannot separate aesthetics from ethics in art: an ethical defect in a work of art (such as The Dirty Bird) directly affects its aesthetic quality, diminishing it. In other words, if you’re awake and aware, you can’t enjoy it, no matter the technical qualities.

Excusing the film by saying that there were other films portraying women’s violence against men is also ridiculous. Living in a society where the vast majority of victims of violence are women and the vast majority of perpetrators of violence are men, there is no comparison.

We need to see this in our society in every place it exists, if it’s ever going to change. That includes film reviews.
" Kaela Stradiotto
Social justice and peace/women’s studies III

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