Women should work together. Our collective was born out of the love of working on each other's projects and the shared belief that women in film (and other fields for that matter) are stronger together. As a member of #girlcrew, Steffie naturally believes in these principles, but recently, she's been seeing it in a new light.
I remember my first all female project like it was yesterday. Maybe it was naive of me, but beforehand I didn't think anything would be different. But as soon as I put up a crew call for female sound recordists, I learned what I've come to known as true: it's a world of difference. I was the producer of a Dutch documentary series on young Muslimahs, who had made online empires by vlogging about fashion & beauty. Because of the subject and the ideals of the female-run production company, they wanted to have a crew full of women, which made sense to me.
When I had to find a sound recordist, I realized I had only worked with men. So I thought I'd ask the film community in Amsterdam for help on one of those Facebook pages that's meant for just that. Eventually I found someone, but not before getting lectured by men about how I couldn't just ask for a woman and not even consider men. Some men were even quoting the government and told me I was being unconstitutional. Something I've definitely never heard since. Especially not when I was being laughed out of a room for being a woman or when I was harassed on set for the same reason.
It was my first experience traveling and working with a female crew, and it could not have gone better. Even though I was the youngest on the team, by at least 15 years, I was never treated like I didn't know what I was doing, or with any sort of disrespect. No jokes were made about my age or appearance (remember this?). And even when I had to plan a last-minute shoot in a different city for the next morning, nobody questioned my capability.
But beyond the way women treat each other while working together, it's also a pleasure to collaborate because of the different sensibilities it brings. The director of that project undoubtedly asked questions a man likely wouldn't have. And when we had to film in a tiny hijab shop in Birmingham, it surely helped to be accepted in because no men were part of our small crew. The same acceptance was there during this year's Women's March on Washington, when women kept cheering our three-person female crew on, telling us how cool they thought we were doing this work and thanking us for paving the way with them.
It's safe to say that I love being a part of all female crews. But recently one of my (female) friends brought up an interesting thought, that unfortunately I hadn't even entertained in the past year or so. We should all work together, men and women. By not working together, we all miss out. It dawned on me that I always frame working with women as a great, empowering thing, but unfortunately it's often born out of necessity.
Earlier this year I was called in for a casual interview for a new job. I left the room faster than I walk home from the subway in the middle of the night. It was an all male team and I was wearing my glasses, something the man who had brought me in for the job hadn't seen on me before, so he asked me about it. I explained that I was dealing with an eye infection, so no contacts. We both assumed that was that, but then someone sitting across the table from me made a comment about it.
"Oh, you should always wear your glasses to these production meetings though, because it makes you look smart and sexy." The comment was inappropriate enough in itself, but he made it worse by explaining I mostly looked sexy cause he was picturing me with only those glasses. No men in the room, not even the one I knew and wanted to hire me, said a word about it. I politely declined the project, because I didn't want to feel uncomfortable. However, the fact is, I shouldn't have been put in that position in the first place, and I definitely shouldn't miss out on a good opportunity because of it.
So when I was recently seeking an editor for my new short film, I actively went to look for a woman. This after one editor, a man, had used half of our meeting to explain terms like rendering and match cutting to me, despite knowing how long I'd been editing myself. He reminded me too much of all the men who had ever told me things like 'honey, don't forget to press record' or 'take off the lens cap or you won't see anything!' while I was holding a camera and thought they were being either helpful or funny.
I think these examples make it easy to understand why I've come to prefer working with women in this industry. I wish this wasn't the case. I wish it was only a choice for projects that benefit from it. In a more perfect world, I would not even have to consider the gender of the person I'm hiring, I'd just focus on finding the person most qualified, not least likely to harass me. So here's what I suggest; let's all work together. Not because we have to, but because we should have that option. We have so much to learn from each other.