French short film about being a woman in a male-dominated society

We’ve written before on this forum about Gender Bending. M’s piece “What is Gender Bending?” addressed body language (as well as clothing, but her emphasis was more on the performative poses) using a photo project by Hana Pesut where men posed as women and women as men. We have also posted about Elliot Sailors, the female model that casts as a male model because there were fewer opportunities for female models (I feel like this was a career move, and I am okay with that. AG would rather Sailors’ decision was motivated by self and not career.)

I am referencing these articles, not just to make you re-read them (or read them, if you haven’t yet) because I have found that this is a running theme in many spaces. Judith Butler’s argument about gender performativity explains how a girl is a girl and what it means for a girl to be a girl. And a boy to be a boy, in society. Sometimes, that only makes sense when the norm is broken- when what we call a boy shows us what a girl is.

Oppressed Majority

Scene from Oppressed Majority where a man is the caretaker of a child while a woman jogs shirtless

It is all in the body. But also how much of that becomes life? I have become a bit obsessed lately by gender swapping and trying to use that to show how different our lives are because of our genders. I am taking a Shakespeare class and we recently watched a German Hamlet production that cast Hamlet as female. Or more precisely, a girl pretending to the world that she was a boy. A secret that would alter wardrobe and body movements because this is what would alert the audience to the performance. [Read also “SheZow: The Female Superhero who is really a boy” where a ring is used for the switch.] When gender bending is introduced in art, like in a show like SheZow or a Shakespeare production, it extends the conversation beyond dress and poses to the stereotypes born from the continuous gender performance. You can see more clear the push and pull between character/individuality and stereotype/instantiation.

This is a long introduction to this short film “Oppressed Majority” that was directed by Eléonore Pourriat. Don’t worry, it has English subtitles.

It is great. It covers not just the wardrobe (there is a woman jogging without a shirt and a man covering his head. He is asked if that is what his wife wants), but the language and the expectations. The men are still men, just as the women are still women- the women just catcall, use crude language and sexually assault a man. The men are the primary caregivers in the family and while still called “husbands”, their roles in the script are the roles that society has defined for women.

Even if I have summoned gender bending, I am not sure if “gender bending” is the right label for this. However, it is a part of what defines the swapped experiences of the sexes in this film.

Watch it. It shouldn’t take subjecting another group of people to the bad things that happen to women for the world to get it. But alas, it has come to this.

ONE THING though: I enjoyed this short film and watched it while texting a friend “OMG Yess!” My favorite scene was the police station when the guy was trying to report his sexual assault and the treatment he got is exactly what happens to most women. BUT I am not entirely comfortable with the use of “feminist society” in this context because it seems to cast feminism as a tool that is used to oppress the other. It has made me question however my use of “masculinity” and “patriarchy” as words that communicate oppression.

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