Tampons, Prostitutes and a Pregnancy Scare

Sunday night I had the pleasure of watching the 24 hour play project, which was really quite fantastic and inspiring.  That being said, I did find it very interesting that within the first three ten minute plays, a vast majority of the characters were female (as picked out of a hat), and contained nearly every female stereotype I could think of.  The first show was about a girl who decided to get pregnant because she was bored, the second play contained four prostitutes, and the third was about two middle school girls in a bathroom dealing with what else- boys, makeup, and periods.  I want to be very clear that I do not mean to pass judgement on the value or comedic choices of these plays.  I was laughing as hard as the next person, and some of these writers are friends and people I truly respect as artists.  And I think if these plays were seen on their own, or even simply not one right after the other, I wouldn’t have had such a visceral reaction, but the fact is that 3 male writers wrote those three plays that were shown one right after the other… and it got me to thinking.  Actually, it lead to a very interesting conversation that I had with my roommates (we happen to be four female actors and a female director/screenwriter) in which one of them brought up an interesting statistic (that unfortunately I could not find to back up, but it’s the idea that I’m trying to get at) that only 15% of the time on screen is a female actor not speaking to or about a male.  So that means that even when we’re not talking to a man, we have to be talking about men.  Now, I don’t think women should never talk about men on screen, obviously that’s something that we actually do!  But we also talk about a whole lot of other things… and it would be great if television and film could reflect that more truthfully.

But the thing is- I don’t think it’s as easy as pinning our problems on chauvinistic men- women perpetuate these stereotypes too.  There’s this idea that if a movie is about a man, it’s universal, where if the main character is a woman, often it’s classified as a chick flick or romcom and is automatically something less… The problem is that I think women often also subscribe to this idea… I’m even finding this annoying tendancy within myself.  My thesis is written by a female writer and features the story of a 25 year old woman and I’ve found myself worrying about male audience members- worrying that they will dismiss it as something less because it is a story about a woman.  I’m annoyed that I even have those doubts.

Anyways, this wasn’t the most succinct or articulate blog post but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, and I know other people have been thinking about, and I think it’s something that’s important to cultivate conversation around.


sbmeyers posted on March 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I have to say that I had similar thoughts and feelings during the show, Kate. I was laughing myself, but I also knew that I wasn’t completely comfortable with the portrayals of women. I’m glad I’m not siting alone in those feelings.

I am disheartened by the facts about women in film, and it makes me curious as to what men are talking about in films. My impulse is to say they’re usually talking about women or sex with women. I could be wrong, but it makes me question if the emphasis in writing of speaking about the opposite sex is a universal problem for women AND men. What important issues then are contemporary characters talking about, especially in film?

Ilana Brownstein posted on March 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Your reaction is super interesting. In fact, it’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few months as I’ve been living in the world of Hookman at Company One. The structure of the play tricks the audience into thinking that these vapid young woman stereotypes (boys, periods, parties, drinking) what the play is about, until it’s slowly revealed — through the use of the slasher film genre — what’s really going on. In the end, the girls are so much more. I’ve been fascinated by the different responses we’ve gotten from male vs female audience members.

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