Wadjda – Film Review

An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.  –IMDb

I first heard about this film through Girls’ Globe, a site dedicated to raising awareness and educating others on global issues about the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls.

Wadjda is the first feature fully filmed in Saudi Arabia. Haifaa Al-Mansour is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a feature film. This was not an easy task. Women are not supposed to work with men in public. Haifaa directed all exterior scenes from the inside of a van. She watched the actors on monitors and communicated with them via walkie-talkie. Nonetheless, she received government approval to complete the film in the country. Although cinemas are not permitted in the country, audiences can see the film on television.

Wadjda is one of my favorite films this year. The film is thought provoking. It carries a heartfelt message about what it means to grow up as a woman in a country where women have plenty of restrictions. For example, women in the kingdom are not allowed to drive. Wadjda wishes for a bike, but she’s constantly told that girls “should not drive bikes.” The notion of a giving a girl a bike is frown upon by society. “You will not be able to have children,” her mom tells her when Wadjda persists on getting a bike. It’s a beautiful metaphor about a girl’s pursue for agency in her society, to make her own destiny, and find her voice.

It features great actors. Waad Mohammed plays Wadjda, a ten years old girl living with her mother in a middle class suburb. Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah (Wadjda’s mother) deliver a wonderful performance. The moments between mother and daughter are sweet and transcend all cultural differences.

This film depicts the life of men and women under the politics and spaces given to them in their society. Wadjda’s mother is devoted to her husband, yet her movements are restricted to what’s expected of her as a married woman. She fears that she will lose her husband due to her invalidity to give him a son. Wadjda’s school plays a big role in enforcing gender restrictions, where a strict principal sets the rules and expectations how girls should behave.

Wadjda is now playing in selected theaters. I urge everyone to go and see this film. You will not be disappointed.

And no, this is not a “girl’s movie.” It’s a film about women’s issues, which happens to have a female lead. Please, do not feed on this idea that films about women (or female leads) are only for female viewers…  Plus, women watch plenty of superhero films. Go watch Wadjda. It’s a wonderful film

Also read: Dana Stevens’ Review

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Objectification & The Media: Blurred Lines of Advertisement

I don’t write these types of post. So, please bear with me for a few minutes. My young sister showed me a video yesterday. In this video, a group of teenagers watch the music video for the song, Blurred Lines.

I know the arguments about the “Blurred Lines” video are exhausted. However, I felt compelled to write after watching these kids react to the video and add to the conversation. Firstly, I would like to praise the creators of  “TheFineBros” for encouraging young people to become aware/conscious of the messages in the media.  I was able to find many interesting videos on their Youtube channel.  Secondly, the Blurred Lines song is catchy, but I’m not a fan of the song or video. Similarly, I do not intent to demean the video neither defend it. In fact, this post has nothing to do with the song or the video. My intention is to highlight the “blurred lines” of female and male objectification in the media. How do we decide which images right for ? How do they make us feel and/or react? 

Yes, I believe we can use the “blurred lines” phrase to describe the role of women in media advertisement.

Here’s where things get complicated.

This      and  this   

Can you tell the difference? While these two images are representing only one type of body image, these images have different connotations. The victoria secret ad sells sexiness, which seems fitting for a store that sells underwear to women. However, the conflict arrives when these images are overly photoshop, creating unrealistic expectations for men and women. This happens often. I also take issue with the lack of diversity in the fashion world.

The second picture is a problem.  Well, I don’t understand what that’s selling.

In some instances,  the images in certain advertisement seem to glorify (for lack of a better word) violence against women.

Dolce & Gabbana ad.

The picture has a BDSM feel in its composition. The female model seems forced into a vulnerable position. All four men desire the same woman, while one man pins the woman down in what appears is against her will. Granted, my problem is not BDSM. My problem is with the “against her will” emotion this image evokes. We see these types of imagines every day on television, on billboards, and shopping malls. We see it so often that we might become uncaring about how people perceive these images, especially children.

American Apparel is known for using provocative pictures for advertisement. The positions of the models are too suggestive for me to focus on the clothes alone. Am I supposed to ignore he’s holding her legs like that? Are these pictures selling sex or clothes?

These types of ads make me feel a little devalued. No, this is not me feeling victimized. I’m making an informed comment, based on observation and research. In media advertisement, the body of a woman often equals her value. If the female body fits the standards of beauty, then the body becomes more  profitable/valuable. Ultimately, that is the message women and men everywhere receive.

Let me be fair. It’s not as popular, but men’s bodies are also objectified in the media. The response is usually the same. These images raise unrealistic expectations about how women’s and men’s bodies should look like and how they should behave according to their sex.

 

I hope I’m making sense here. The objectification of bodies in the media is hardly a secret. Nonetheless, the discussion  is still relevant. If we ignore the discussion, then nothing will change. We might become desensitized to these images and how we see them… The discussion about it will continue. These images set a standard for young boys and girls. It’s the reason posts like this one continue to exist. I would love to hear your thoughts on their matter.

Thanks for reading.

Best,

Steph

Can Online Videos Change the World?

Girls' Globe

Women and girls around the world are increasingly raising their voices online in an effort to enhance women’s rights.  This is a compilation of a few of our favorite recent videos. If you know of other inspirational videos, we would love for you to post them in the comments section below.

On Women in Movies and Television

On Child Marriage

On Gender Inequality in Toys

On Music

On Domestic Abuse

On Street Harassment

On Feminism

On Reproductive Health 

On Women in Sports

On Real Beauty

On Breastfeeding

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Gendercide in India: Interview with Nyna Caputi, producer and director of documentary film “Petals in the Dust”

Something to look into… Media Activism.

Girl’s Globe is a wonderful blog to follow. This is how I stay updated on human rights, gender equality, and gender-based violence concerns.

Thanks for reading,
Steph

Girls' Globe

Petals in the dust 2Nyna Pais Caputi, the producer and director of the film Petals in the Dust, is originally from India and currently lives in the Bay Area. She founded the Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls in 2010, which is an international awareness campaign on “gendercide” in India that has taken place in over 25 cities and five countries. Caputi’s film, Petals in the Dust, is a documentary that brings to light the tragic murders of millions of Indian girls and women due to a preference of sons among Indian society. The film explores the roots of misogyny, the experiences of women across socioeconomic and political lines, and the efforts bring an end to gender-based violence. The upcoming film’s trailer has been screened in numerous cities in India, Canada and USA, and is quickly drawing attention from people. Girls’ Globe catches up with the woman behind the camera.

Jasmine: You…

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Summer Readings: Pick of the week

Commencement: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan

Take a look inside

If you are looking for anything interesting to read, I would like to recommend this book to you. Commencement is a book about four young women living their life after graduation and reaching the senior year of their lives. This is an entertaining book, it’s feminist without being over the top.  I promise. It’s witty and hilarious.

J.K. Rowling’s “Single Mother’s Manifesto”

Cameron proposes help to single mothers should only be given if they  get married. “It’s not the money, it’s the message.” J.K Rowling speaks up against it.

Today, J.K. Rowling has reminded me why I started a blog in the first place. I do not claim to have a perfect grammar or excellent editorial skills, but I like to make my voice heard. I’m very shy, and critical about my communication skills. As result, I shy away once in a while, and I opt to stay silent in a corner of my house (literally). This is why I need women like J.K Rowling to remind me of the things that I should focus on, the things I should speak up about. It’s easy to just sit back and ignore the issues affecting our world. We sometimes rather pay attention to the latest gossips before focusing our time and mind to other issues. Then, we acknowledge that we do this and kind of laugh about it sometimes ( I confess). I’m actually quite late to this news, but  past April 14, J.K Rowling wrote The Single Mother’s Manifesto. In this article, the author expresses her discontent with Cameron’s proposition and makes a few remarks.

“Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation.”

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