Parity And Talent
Réalisatrices Équitables works with data, not emotions. Reason is what interests us. Public debate, especially televised, is not our forte. As a case in point, we are never invited to Tout le monde en parle, an extremely popular Québec talk show, nor to programs where people expose their personal stories as absolute truth. Several stars have expressed opinions about parity on these shows. Of this group, the women often recoil at the very notion that they might eventually be chosen because of parity, while their male counterparts frequently use sarcasm to express disagreement with the concept.
But none of that changes the data, which is the only valid argument in the parity debate. Over time, data has proven itself to be Réalisatrices Équitables’ most valuable ally, despite the depressing truths it reveals and their underlying, unspoken yet implicit corollaries: top students who are condemned to oblivion, destinies sidetracked, talent silenced and careers broken. When comparing the high number of women enrolled in production schools with the low number of female directors of feature films or televised series, we are dealing in facts. These facts are devastating: little or no return on a significant investment in studies, short or inexistent careers and unremitting unpaid labour.
Over the years, we received a wide variety of reactions as we released these figures to the public. Some critics accused us of inventing data, even though it was provided by funding agencies. Others insinuated that our calculations were inaccurate, and ultimately, we were asked to «stop boring everyone» with our numbers. In short, we have heard every possible argument against parity. Such resistance only shows the importance of the structural changes taking place in today’s society. At the end of the day, all of these reactions can be distilled to a fear of change. Indeed, the world is changing.
Based on data reported over the past 30 years by thousands of studies initiated by hundreds of women’s groups and scientists around the world, media arts funding agencies in Québec and Canada decided to institute parity measures 1. One of the most incisive studies, conducted by Unesco, demonstrates that statistics on women who create national cultures – and I intentionally use the term «create» rather than «manage» – are similar worldwide. Indeed, globally speaking, women massively study culture in institutions of higher learning, in numbers peaking up to 87%. Yet this tendency does not carry over into the professional sphere in terms of career progression. This is as true for Canada as it is for developing countries or nations which have no respect for women’s rights.
The creation of culture is one of the last remaining traditionally male occupations. Contrary to other sectors, affirmative action has never modernized the arts world with the extra push that has changed society for the better, for both sexes. Thanks to such measures, from now on, at least in Québec and Canada, the female half of the population will create its fair share of culture, art, heritage and memory. Going forward, men AND women will have the privilege of bearing witness to their time, their personal stories, their inspiration, their country’s history, or their fantasies.
The new world
After years of unrelenting work at Réalisatrices Équitables, I consider that the intense, often frenzied efforts of dozens of members have born fruit. These new parity measures have laid the groundwork for even more significant changes in years to come. Women creators have travelled a long, hard road over the past 50 years. A female universe has gradually been unveiled in our national cinema. It began at the NFB French Program’s Women’s Studio, with the emergence of a female imagination steeped in feminism and social struggle. Then came the imaginary perspectives of Generation X women filmmakers, whose careers were nipped in the bud. I myself belong to this «sacrificed generation». However, in the last 10 or so years, a certain renewal has made itself felt. While still too few women could access feature film production, women received more media attention and visibility in festivals. Most important, their careers now extended beyond the production of a single feature film. Women were actually able to create a corpus of several works over time.
Today, everything is changing, as demonstrated by SODEC and Telefilm’s statistics following their adoption of parity measures. The time has come for all female directors of diverse styles, talents and trajectories, to take their rightful place. Their equal place. No more, but no less. Naturally, going forward, there will be women filmmakers for all tastes. Some will be considered mediocre, some brilliant, others average. However, this has always been the case for men, and it will be no different for women. As Coline Serreau, who first inspired us, put it: «We ‘ll know we’ve attained equality when there are as many female imbeciles as there are male idiots in position of power.»
The DAMES DES VUES portal is intended as a grassroots response to arguments we’ve heard, such as how to attain parity if not enough women are making films. True, fewer women make films. But our portal presents over 200 women, from the documentary, feature film, new media, TV and Web sectors. This is only the tip of the iceberg, since we have researched and compiled close to 800 women directors from all horizons. Some are pioneers who still make films! Others have directed at least three short films. Parity is synonymous with discovery of new, hidden talent. Far from impoverishing the quality of our media landscape, parity will raise the bar, which you can see for yourself as you explore this portal. You will discover dozens of prize-winning women directors, and others whose films have been selected for official competition at prestigious international festivals. If you are looking for a talented female film director, over 200 are presented here, and their numbers will only grow over the coming years.
Indeed, the world is changing. The new one is already on our doorstep. Welcome to the universe of DAMES DES VUES. And just to conclude our study of data, take a final look. It has changed significantly since the NFB and Telefilm inaugurated parity, and since SODEC established new measures. Thanks to everyone who made parity a reality, from the most radical activists to today’s film funding agency directors. Bravo and thank you!
Former president, Réalisatrices Équitables