The difficult status of women in cinema
The third edition of the Assises for Equality, Parity and Diversity in Cinema and the Audiovisual Sector, which took place on 25 and 26 November 2020 in Paris, France, featured the actress and director Agnès Jaoui, captured the audience by force with an intimate and feminist discourse in which she recounts her own experience and the wounds inflicted on the little girl, the woman, the actress and director she has become.
It starts at 5 years old. When I was about 5 years old I was abused by a stranger in the stairwell of my building. Just afterwards while my mother was calling the police there was a children's film on television with a little blonde girl saying nice things and diamonds came out of her mouth and a little brown girl saying bad words and toads came out of her mouth.
When I was about 6 years old, I discovered Pippi Longstocking on television - a little girl with braids flying in the air and a supernatural strength. I really liked Pippi Longstocking.
When I was 11 years old, I was abused by my uncle.
When I was 12, I started a diet that I still haven't finished to try to eradicate this roundness and fat that seemed to cause so many problems of desire and disgust.
At about 13, I saw films with Marilyn Monroe and I sang in front of the mirror with my mouth open in a heartshape.
When I was about 16 years old, during the theatre course I was enrolled, I realised that for ten male roles there were two or three female roles, which offered little possibility of identification. Namely the maid, necessarily young and beautiful, and the housewife who could at leisure be ugly and old since she was out of date and unfit for consumption.
Later on I would realise that during his studies many boy bands would form and work together, and very few girl bands.
When I was about 19 years old, I realised that I had practically only read books written by men and whose main heroes were men.
When I was about 24, I saw films with Marilyn Monroe again and I realised that I wanted to look like an idiot.
When I was about 25 years old, a casting crew told me that they were looking for an actress for an auteur film who was ready to be sodomized for real.
Around 26, I started writing my own roles with Jean-Pierre Bacri.
Around 27, I saw and liked Thelma and Louise but then I had a violent argument with a great friend who blamed the film for the use of weapons and the violence of its heroines.
When I was about 30 years old, when I was doing interviews abroad. I was very proud to claim that in France we were 20% more women directors than in any other country in the world.
Around 34, I realised that this meant that 80% of films were made by men and I wondered why I had been so proud of such a lousy percentage. What powerful acceptance of my inferiority had made me proud of such a pathetic figure.
When I was about 35, I looked for an overweight young actress for a film and realised that there were very few candidates as if they had self-censored themselves and forbidden themselves to push the door of a theatre class. A year later the film came out with the excellent Marilou Berry in the role and I realised that no women's magazine would put her on the cover as they like to do when the daughter of a famous actress gets her first role.
In May, by dint of hesitating between 12 dresses, I felt like walking naked up the steps of the Cannes Film Festival.
When I was about 35, I realised that one of the reasons why I found the actresses in the soprano series so amazing was that she had normal bodies. Because otherwise in all police stations and law firms they obviously recruit in modeling agencies. I realised that my actress friends were working less than my actor friends.
When I was about 45, I realised that there were many more writers, composers, directors and female painters than I thought; but that they had been mysteriously erased from our heritage. I also realised at that time that the term " patrimony " was used instead of " matrimony ".
Last March, locked down with a great friend, I told him that he was a little tired of men's films, with only men; he didn't see the problem, but I insisted, and we ended up seeing Olivia by Jacqueline Audry, where there are only women. My great friend fell asleep after five minutes.
In October, a programme on France Culture (ed. french radio station) told the story of Jacqueline Audry. This programme was entitled La disparue du cinéma français ("The Disappeared of French Cinema") and showed how the new generation, among others, had despised and banished this director to our memories, even to the point of erasing her from our memories and mocking the fact that she was turning in trousers
In 2017, the clitoris was for the first time correctly depicted in school textbooks. In recent years, it has been discovered that only one woman has won the Cesar for best director. In 2020, it has been discovered that the composition of voters at the Caesars has a 65% majority of men. In 2020, 88% of the films on French television are made by men; in the cinema, 76% of the films, depending on the year, a little more, a little less, are made by men.
I am 56 years old and I am not happy with these figures. I believe in the immense influence of images, and all the more so when we are not necessarily aware of it. I believe that a TV series with a black president can help elect Barack Obama. I believe that repeated representations of filiform, young, white, submissive women does not help women or men to flourish. Finally, I would like to draw inspiration from Camus who said that "to name things badly is to add to the misfortune of the world" by saying that "not to put our diversities into images is to add to the values of the world". I will end with this quote, I don't know who wrote it, it must be a woman, "obedient girls go to heaven, others go wherever they want".
Over the years, the Spotify algorithms have correctly identiﬁed that I tend to like “chill” music of a certain BPM ...
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
But entertainment has the merit not only of being better suited to helping sell goods; it is an effective vehicle for hidden ideological messages. Furthermore, in a system of high and growing inequality, entertainment is the contemporary equivalent of the Roman “games of the circus” that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that is helpful to preservation of the status quo.