Women Discuss Horror At The Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival

By Andrea Thompson


Well, the Twisted Dreams Film Festival, Milwaukee's own film fest for horror movie fans, is over. This is a film fest I enjoy, and not just because I do some communications work on their behalf. The fest is now in its third year, and the men behind it, Stephen Milek and Chris House, have made a habit of showcasing at least a few films that put women front and center. This year, they got even more inclusive by not only featuring an entire shorts block devoted to female directors, but also a panel discussion on women in horror. I found it quite interesting, sometimes in a depressing way.

The panel consisted Susan Kerns, a professor at Columbia and one of the co-directors of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival, Wendy Keeling, a writer, director and actress, Theda de Sade, a burlesque dancer, actress, and writer, and panel moderator Josephine Yanasak-Leszczynski, a film critic and author.

Some of what they had to say was pretty positive. The mindset really is changing, with everyone on the panel describing how there was less hoarding of opportunity. Women apparently no longer feel they have to fight for the one place traditionally allotted to a female filmmaker, and they described a more helpful, supportive environment.

There was also a discussion of those issues which are especially relevant to the horror genre: the violence routinely inflicted on female characters. The panel described how most of the brutality seemed less about trying to tell a story or even deliver frights than just some guy trying to see how much he could get away with, or worse, fulfilling his fantasies. One of the women described how she heard an actor brag that he got to rape a woman.

It was a disturbing point that led to what they called the “50 Shades effect.” For Theda de Sade, it meant many people assuming she likes being hit since she's a “goth girl.” All of them also talked about how “50 Shades” and the subsequent mainstreaming of BDSM has led to more exploitative stories. Kerns mentioned that the Chicago Feminist Film Festival has gotten a lot more rape revenge films, since people seem to think these kinds of films are feminist as long as there's a revenge element. Really, when will people learn it takes more than that?


One thing the panelists all strongly agreed on was having different kinds of people on set. One thing I've noticed is that when people who aren't straight white men talk about diversity is that these discussions tend to take on a greater sense of urgency. To these women, having different kinds of people on a film set wasn't just a business or even a moral issue. It helped improve their work and their lives. They talked about how the quality of the movie itself improved by having such a range of experiences, and how it helped everyone feel safer. For them, this wasn't an afterthought; it was essential.

But then, they opened it up for questions. There were a lot of men in the audience, and it actually made the talks more depressing rather than uplifting. The very first comment involved a guy talking about how many of their problems seemed to more revolve around being an independent filmmaker rather than being a woman. Another guy remarked that he didn't care about whether the movie he saw was directed by a woman or a man, he just wanted it to be good. Problems with funding was much discussed. Really, were these men not listening? The first more seemed to be another instance of a guy telling women what their problems were, the other seemed to be more of a case of something that should be positive coming off as another male fan patting himself on the back for not being “that kind of guy.”

In the end, the impression I got was the same one I tend to get when I go to a lot of these kinds of events. I loved how far we've apparently come, but it was VERY clear just how far we have to go, especially once it became clear how a large portion of audiences still viewed these women and themselves.

How Do Women Deal With Beauty Standards Today? It May Surprise You.

Photo credit to The Cut

Photo credit to The Cut

By Andrea Thompson

One of the most painful truths every woman has to reckon with is that her actions don't matter nearly as much as her looks. For most people, this will define a woman. It's not how hard she works, how smart she is, or how much she achieves. Attention will only be paid if you are considered beautiful enough to warrant it.

Today, two very different stories have discussed this, and it's brought out some of the ugliness women are capable of inflicting upon each other. One of them is less easy to sympathize with, admittedly. Yesterday on The Cut, there was an article published. The title? “What It's Like to Go Through Life As a Really Beautiful Woman.” It's hardly surprising that this has attracted a lot of negative reactions, and you can hardly blame a lot of women for having some trouble sympathizing. But as others have pointed out, there's also a lot of examples of how women absorbing all the insane beauty standards they're subject to can affect how we treat each other so drastically. There are stories of other women trying to make it look like she was an alcoholic, of breaking up her engagement, and of isolating her socially.


To her credit, this woman also recognizes many of the incredible privleges her looks have given her. Well, to a certain extent. Her beauty opened so many doors that now that she's older, she seems unsure of how to cope with that lack of attention. She worked on the issues in her marriage less because she wanted to stay, and more due to a fear of rejection from men, which was something she'd never experienced. It ends up being heartbreaking in ways she probably didn't intend. Sure, beauty will get you in the door, but there has to be more to you than that. You have to work hard to stick around, and this woman just took the easy way out. She basically coasted on her looks without wanting the party to end. Now she feels lonely and starved for attention, even though her experiences later in life have made her a better person. So in the end what this article makes clear is just how much beauty standards end up hurting the women who somehow manage to meet them too. When so much comes so easily, it ends up not leaving you with much at all.

On a lighter note, some women have decided to have a little fun with this concept. There have already been examples of how women are treated by many male authors in the literary canon, but podcast host Whit Reynolds (@whitneyarner) challenged women on Twitter to describe themselves the way male authors would. And the results have been hilarious. Of course, some guys have described how insecure this has made them:


And have been reassured that there is a solution:


There just may be hope for us all.

A Great Night Supporting Female and non-Binary Comic Book Artists


Going out and supporting the art women make is a great feeling. But when that feeling is accompanied by snacks, drinks, and pizza? Well, that's even better.

Such was the case at Women's Comics Night, which is a monthly hangout at Challengers Comics in Bucktown in Chicago. I'd missed the last meeting, and I'm so glad I made it to this one. I arrived a little late, and I was pleased to see the room off to the side for the panel, comprised solely of female and non-binary (well, one) artists was already underway. And packed. Luckily, I managed to find a seat, and so I kicked off a very fun evening.

Since I've been so focused on movies, it was also an opportunity to catch up on what was happening in the comics world. I knew I was behind, but I had no idea that there was now a Rogue & Gambit comic, particularly sad as they're one of my favorite couples ever. I was also unaware of just how much indigenous comics there were, as well as a comics convention devoted solely to indigenous artists. Also, that women were drawing comics about sex education, all the stuff they were doing that just involved a kind of expansion from superhero comics driven by a need to see their stories, or just different kinds of stories out there while doing what they loved. And some of them weren't even artists. They were just nerds who came because they were curious and wanted to support female artists too. Afterwards, there was plenty of chatting with the panelists and pretty much the entire audience that stayed to mingle.


Nights like this always mean so much to me because they completely disprove so many of the negative attitudes that I was fed growing up. The ones about how women only compete with each other and are never supportive. About how few women there are compared to men making and doing things. Events like this make me wish so badly for a time machine so I could go back and tell the younger me that not only is this wrong, that I'd be helping to disprove these things myself when I was older.

If you're in the Chicago area, check it out! Turns out this place has a ton of monthly events, and they really emphasize spreading the word about the great work women are doing. Check out the site here, and Facebook page here. Until next time!


Rotten Tomatoes Alternative Launching Soon With Women-Only Critics Site

women audience.jpg

This article first appeared on The Young Folks. To check it out click here.

Men don’t only dominate the popular culture that’s released, they also play a major part in how we interpret and react to that culture. Film critics are generally white and male, and they often play a significant role in deciding whether a movie is worth our time and attention.

But a new site, CherryPicks, aims to offer a new perspective by only featuring works by female critics, giving audiences an alternative to sites such as Rotten Tomatoes. Founded by Miranda Bailey (The Squid and the WhaleDiary of a Teenage Girl), an actor and producer, and author and entrepreneur Rebecca Odes (gurl.com, wifey.tv), the site aims to become the leading voice for the female perspective on media.

“The timing is perfect, “ said Odes. “The male-dominated culture of Hollywood has reached a breaking point. It’s time to start building the Hollywood of the future—one that recognizes the multi-tiered problem of gender bias—and correct it every step of the way.”

CherryPicks will also have its own rating scale, which is below:

Bowl of Cherries: Great. Must see.
Pair of Cherries: Good. Recommended.
Single Cherry: Mixed. You might like it, you might not.
The Pits: Self-explanatory.

The site will also have a system called the CherryCheck, which will “offer easy access to information relevant to women as media consumers, using the female lens, expanding on The Bechdel test to evaluate films according to on- and off-screen gender representation, and other content considerations relevant to women.”

“For years now, our industry has been proclaiming that we need change to include more minorities and females on both sides of the camera,” said Bailey. “This would be impossible to do in a speedy fashion, unless we can change the perceived desires of consumers. How can we possibly change what consumers consider good and worthy content if the majority of critics who tell them what to want are predominately older white males? I’m hoping CherryPicks will prove that female artists, crew, and stories are valuable for our industry to invest in, thereby influencing Hollywood to move towards equality in a more timely fashion.”

The site will launch this month with Cherry Bites, an email subscription service which will highlight female viewpoints on film criticism and media. Later this year, CherryPicks will also launch its multi-platform site which will include original content such as podcasts, reviews, Top 10 lists, and interviews with women who work in the industry.