Locarno 2018 Review: #FEMALE PLEASURE Confronts Patriarchalism One Religion At a Time
Patriarchalism turned out to be a rather dysfunctional system. Swiss filmmaker Barbara Miller embarks to uncover the weak points and adapts the lens of a religion. While faith is not the subject of the documentary #Female Pleasure, religions have robust and deep-rooted ties to patriarchalism. With the exception of Hinduism and the Marian cult in Christianity, female deities completely vanished with the twilight of Greco-Roman mythology in the Occidental culture.
At the beginning of 21st century, gender and cultural stereotypes undergo major reassessment while women and their voices in the society are being empowered and heard loud and clear. All it took was an intensive string of shocking scandals to rock and eventually topple the status quo. Miller adds her contribution to the hottest debate through the eyes of five brave women willing to act and testify.
A globe- and religion-trotting docu-travelogue putting into the forefront not solely female pleasure but basic rights. Human rights activist hailing from India, Vithika Yadav working on sexual rights, gender rights and slavery and human trafficking. She is the head of Love Matters India. Since sex is still taboo in India, Yadav´s quest is to provide complete and unbiased information revolving around love and sex.
Sanal Sasidharan addressed the double standard in Indian society and religion towards women in what has become explosive and controversial film on home turf, Sexy Durga (read the review). Yadav´s battle is even fiercer succeeding to defy an arranged marriage, very strong social convention and tradition. Her fight against religious fundamentalism however remains an endeavor she is dedicated to confronting.
Somali psychotherapist and social activist Leyla Hussein wages a different kind of crusade. Against FGM, female genital mutilation in some corners still considered a religious requirement and a tradition. Hussein provides a shocking statistics, more than 200 million girls and women worldwide experiencing FGM, every 11 seconds a girl is cut, an oppression of female body not reserved for the African continent.
Hussein explains that such severe interference into female sexuality server to control them. Her testimony is more visceral since Miller includes scenes from Hussein´s sessions where she demonstrates the inhumanity on a graphic imagery. The director captures the authentic reactions speaking a very clear language.
Former nun Doris Wagner shares her traumatizing personal account of how her idealism was shattered by unacceptable transgression. Wagner joined a Catholic community Das Werk whose activities towards its very own members resembled cult practices. Wagner was sexually abused, an insult to injury being conscious neglect of her situation by superiors.
Despite sexual abuse became not only PR but also legal catastrophe for Catholic Church lately, Wagner recounts an experience of disenchantment with the religion she sincerely believed in could make world better and disenfranchised not being able to achieve justice. She even turned to the pope to no avail.
American writer Deborah Feldman managed to successfully cut ties with Orthodox Jewish community. Feldman describes how the religion marginalizes women seeing them unequal to man and reduce to a set of prescribed activities like birthing and child-rearing. Feldman´s account offers the female perspective on ages-old traditions stemming from religious pretense while Yolande Zauberman presents a male point-of-view in her documentary M (read the review) that is not that flattering as well and opens a whole different and complicated situation how women and men are perceived and treated.
The last but not least story of a battle with double standards comes from Japan. No religion but deeply ingrained cultural hierarchy prevented Rokudenashiko (literal translation „good-for-nothing-girl"), Megumi Igarashi, to work on her manko art. In Igarashi´s works, her vagina takes the front and center. And she was trialed for obscenity.
Rokudenashiko´s segment brings a bit of humor and lightness as Igarashi does not take herself so seriously as she wages the struggle to get her art properly recognized and legitimized. The tour of local sex-shop full of phalocentric imagery and countless replicas of vaginas would have hinted that there is no case yet the Japanese justice system had a different opinion.
Miller does not attack religions just points towards obvious male domination and outdated opinions inbred into the very fabric of religion. #Female Pleasure makes an informed point on inherent sexism and misogyny frequently exerted on behalf or under the pretense of a higher being while using women body as a key. However, it is also a portrait of women from different backrounds who did not get detracted by many hindrances and charged forward thus packing an inspirational value along making a strong statement.
- Barbara Miller
- Barbara Miller (concept)
- Deborah Feldman
- Leyla Hussein
- Doris Wagner