Just Celebrity: Hi Vanessa, could you please tell us a little bit about your documentary ‘The trouble with the F-word’?
Vanessa: Hi! ‘The Trouble with the F-word’ is more of a performative than a classical documentary. The two central characters, Lucy Anne Holmes from No more page 3 and TV presenter Nick Lancaster – a woman and a man with differing views – are participating in an experiment to test their established beliefs about feminism and anti-feminism. The film employs animation and quirkily unexpected and dramatic set pieces, to challenge stereotypes and spark questions that will push the feminism debate forward. The tone is humorous and entertaining to engage the widest audience in what is in fact a serious and extremely divisive debate.
JC: What has urged you to make this documentary and why do you feel this issue is so important today?
V: After the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison’s passing in 2013, surveys establishing the ‘death of feminism’ were spread across the media and I felt the need to investigate more around this topic, together with my friend, executive producer Beverley Morisson. We have discovered an incredible amount of people, men and women, rejecting feminism and blaming it to have become a sexist movement that was no longer representative for the majority of women. In 2013, Caroline Criardo Perez received death threats for suggesting to put a woman’s face on a tenner, and sex workers were complaining about modern Feminism because it was ostracizing them. Last year, after the tumblr page called ‘women against feminism’ which broke to the news and the launch of Emma Watson’s He for She campaign, we had no more doubt that the debate around Feminism became a hot topic.
JC: Approximately 50 years ago feminism started with women protesting against the unequal working conditions. What do you hope that feminism will do today and how do you see the world of feminism in 50 years?
V: Today, Feminism integrates many different movements that are often contradictory because it opposes a practical debate (sex worker’s conditions and the impact of censorship laws) versus a philosophical debate (do we want to live in a society where porn is a standard?). I would love to see more communication between the different movements as much as I would like to live in a word where gender stereotypes are gone and that men and women can work together to achieve equality. I believe that this will become a standard the next 50 years but for now, the world has a lot of people who feel left over by Feminism, sex workers, transgenders and men are the majority of those people.
JC: If you would have the chance to change the way people see feminism before it became a negative term, what would you have done differently than how feminists have done it in the past?
V: I think the debate about Feminism took place because of Modern Feminism. Most of young women who claim themselves antifeminist don’t blame their grandmothers whom have fought for the pill, the equal pay or to get their own bank account. The issue is the place of feminism today in the western world where men and women are born equal by law. I wouldn’t be able to say what would have been better to do or not to do, but a different approach is probably a good option to consider.
JC: Why did you choose Nick and Lucy for the making of this documentary?
V: I can’t tell much about it at this moment because it needs to be discovered in the film. However, both Nick and Lucy represent a side of the society in a way. Lucy is an activist feminist, fighting against sexism but also far from being radical and other feminist stereotypes. Nick is representing most of men, I believe, because he is an equalist, he believes that men and women should have the same rights but feels far from the feminism movement. He sometimes even sees it as a barrier for gender equality because, for example, many feminist organizations don’t allow men to their meetings.
JC: Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, with what kind of feminism do you relate?
V: This is a question that has been asked to me a lot lately. If I stick to the definition of feminism in the dictionary, I am a feminist because I believe in equality between men and women. However, if I believed there wasn’t an issue with the feminist movement as a whole, I wouldn’t make this film.
JC: What do you think is the one thing women struggle with today, which feminism could get rid of?
V: Feminism has an image problem. Too often women are their own greatest enemies.
JC: Why do you think women are hesitant to present themselves as feminists and do you think that feminism could become a positive term again?
V: Feminism today has become a bit of a catchall where you can see people demonstrating for women’s equality and the increase of women’s representation, fighting sexism and may other great campaigns, and at the same time we hear about events like scientist Matt Taylor in tears for wearing an alleged sexist t-shirt, or New York’s tube campaigning against ‘manspreading’, assuming that men are taking too much space in public transports on purpose. Also, there is no more possible calm debate about the question of rape without being called a rape apologist or a man-hater. It has also becoming difficult to debate about sex, prostitution and feminism. I think all this absence of debate and the stress on the battle of the sexes is the cause of the negativity around Feminism and it is probably the reason why some women don’t want to be associated to Feminism. At least that was what came out from my investigation.
JC: Do you feel male activists have a point in saying that feminists suppress men, and how do you think society could prevent more gender separation?
V: I don’t think that is the aim of Feminism, however that is how some male activists feel. Nick for example is far from being misogynist, but he doesn’t feel feminism is including men in the battle for achieving gender equality. Like many other men in this country, he feels that men are all put in the same basket and that as a man he could be a potential woman abuser, which is quite offensive. That is the reason why he accepted to participate in this film. Lucy wants to prove him that this is all false, we’ll just have to wait and see if she’ll manage to convince him in the film.
JC: Thank you for your time today, Vanessa!