Girls on Film


Women are under-represented on screen, in general and particularly in active roles, just as they are under-represented in politics and boardrooms. In the top grossing films of 2013, women accounted for 15% of all propagandists, 29% of major characters and 30% of all speaking parts. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media have done studies that show that in crowd scenes, women make up only 17% of the crowd. Women are 51% of the world’s population but they are mostly absent from the world on screen. Eva Wiseman wrote about this is a recent article for the Guardian – Women are everywhere so why are we invisible on film? This is important because wiping women out of the onscreen world is a form of sexism. Making women less visible makes their concerns less important and makes them seem less valuable part of society.

When popular culture shows men being active, making big decisions and saving the world while the women are always waiting to be saved or offering support to the men, it’s easy to assume that men do the heavy lifting while women make the tea. When popular culture is one of the ways we learn how the world works and are our place in it, this message practically acts as propaganda, teaching women to know their place.

This is particularly relevant for children. A lot of the Geena Davis Institute’s research focuses on the things that children are watching. They found that in kids’ films and TV there are three male characters for every female one. Straight away, children are being feed the message that girls are less important than boys.

Even the tv shows or films that do feature women, and congratulate themselves on their diversity, generally feature one woman to every five, six, seven men. This is not an accuarate reflection of the real world. It also means the one woman has the tough job of representing all women. While the seven men can be smart or simple, sensitive or tough, angry, gentle, abrasive, bossy, etc , the one female character tends to be a two-dimensional stereotype. Women aren’t allowed to be nuanced or complicated because they are there to represent an entire gender and that doesn’t allow for subtlety.

One way to avoid these broad-stroke female characters is to put more women behind the camera, in decision-making roles, writing and directing films and tv. Hollywood is a sexist place to work, it’s an industry that clearly sees women as pretty objects to be looked at rather than human beings with ideas, opinions and ambitions. It’s not an easy place to be a woman in charge. And yet they are doing it anyway. There are an increasing number of women getting films made in the mainstream and the less commercial indie sector. Recent big screen examples include Suffragette, written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron, Miss You Already, written by Morwenna Banks and directed by Catherine Hardwicke and Pitch Perfect 2 written by Kay Cannon and directed by Elizabeth Banks.

wftiBut the numbers of films being written and directed by women is still depressingly low and there are many stories about the sexism that women have face while trying to make work for the screen. Women in Film and TV is an organisation that aims to encourage and support women working in this field. It’s a worldwide organisation with a burgeoning Irish branch. It’s a way to help see more diversity on our screens, and hopefully as a result, in life.

Another way to support women making movies is to go and see their work. The second Feminist Film Festival is happening in the New Theatre in Dublin this weekend and you can go and see lots of feature films, shorts and panel discussions. The programme includes the suitably scary horror film The Babadook for Halloween, and the Irish premier of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a documentary charting the U.S. women’s movement between 1966-1971. All that and the profits will go to charity!


BansheeEarlier this year, I supported the Banshee Kickstarter because it sounded like an interesting project that was just the right amount of ambitious. (And because I like getting exciting things in the post. I am always more likely to support a crowd-funding campaign that promises to send me nice things in the post.)

I’m not a big magazine reader. I read a lot online and when I’m away from the computer, I prefer to read fat novels. But Banshee came through the door when I was between books and it was nice to read short pieces for a change. It has a nice mix of stories, poems and essays. The magazine is a great size for your handbag (unlike the books that give you backache) and a lot of the pieces are the right length to enough with a cup of tea or on a short bus journey. It’s gets a big thumbs up for me. You can still subscribe here and looking forward to getting something exciting in the post next year. It’s an investment in your future happiness.

They are also accepting submissions for the next issue at the moment and you have until Halloween night to send in your poems, short stories or essays. Submission details are here. And you can also read an interview with the three editors here.

If you can’t wait for the post or just aren’t interested in hard-copy magazines, I recommend you head over to The Coven for your literary needs, another spookily named literary magazine but one that’s all online.

Bram Stoker Festival

Dublin is a busy place; there’s always something going on. Tonight, for instance – Tara Flynn launched her new book in the Gutter Bookshop, Women in Film and TV Ireland held their first members event in the O’Callaghan Hotel on Stephen’s Green and the Panti Bliss documentary Queen of Ireland premiered in the Lighthouse Cinema. It’s one thing choosing not to go to some or all of these wonderful cultural events, but it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out when you’re away from Dublin.


I’m heading off on my holidays tomorrow, and after the dark, damp weather this week it feels like the perfect time to do with it. I’m looking forward to the sun, sea and sangria even though it means I will be miss the wonderful Bram Stoker Festival which is happening around the city from Friday 23rd – Monday 26th. It looks like my kind of festival. There are lots of free events, including Stokerland in Wolfe Tone Square, a Maser installation in Smithfield Square and the always spectacular Macnas parade on Monday evening. There are also events happening in great venues such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Freemasons Hall.

If I wasn’t going to be in sunny Spain this weekend, I would definitely be booking a ticket for the New Blood night in Project and picking out a spot to watch the Macnas parade.

Words and language at the Dublin Theatre Festival 2015

dublin-theatre-fest15-posterDublin Theatre Festival is over for another year, though they have already made the first announcement for next year’s festival – a production of Don Giovanni, translated by Roddy Doyle and directed by Pan Pan’s Gavin Quinn. I’m a little bit disappointed that Roddy Doyle, who writes such great dialogue (I love his Two Pints series on Facebook), is writing an opera. In my limited experience of opera, the words tend to get lost in the beautiful melodies and soaring arias. I didn’t get much out of the opera in this year’s festival – Enda Walsh’s The Last Hotel. Maybe I just don’t get on with opera.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the festival. The two Chekhov plays – tg Stan’s The Cherry Orchard and Dead Centre’s Chekhov’s First Play – were both highlights for me and it was lovely to see Dancing at Lughnasa in the Gaiety. I’m also looking forward to seeing The Train this week, stretching out my festival experience a little longer.

I also enjoyed the post-show talks and the other discussions that happened as part of the festival. Last Thursday I went to Found in Translation, a fascinating discussion about the challenges of translation. The panellists was made up of two translators – Joanna Crawley and Christine Madden, and Eugene O’Neill, who’s play Eden has been translated into many different languages, including Dutch, Romanian and Catalan. They talked about how translating doesn’t mean just translating the words, you also have to translate into the culture of the new country. There’s also the added layer of different theatre conventions in different countries. Eugene O’Neill said some European countries had great difficulty with the idea that the cast stayed still and delivered their lines, a typical thing in Irish theatre, but a radical idea when their idea of theatre is full of movement and visual metaphors.

These are my three favourite things I took away from the talk:

  1. That the word “baluba”, meaning mad or drunk, was (is?) the name of a tribe in the Congo and came into Irish lexicon after a UN Peace Keeping mission in the 1960s. It was a new one on me, though Urban Dictionary knew about it. The full details of the conflict are here.
    It came up last Thursday because one of the characters in Eden talks about how he “got balubas last night” and O’Neill had to describe what this word meant to his Romanian translator.
  2. There is no German word for silly. This was from Christine Madden (who translates from German) and it came up when she was describing a talk she went to, given by a man who had translated PJ Woodhouse into German. He said that his way into the work was realising that what Woodhouse did was treat light subjects very seriously, and serious subjects very lightly. She felt it was the perfect definition of silly.
  3. And this article from Joanna Crawley about the first production of her translation of Amy Conroy’s I Alice I and how this very Irish play resonated with Polish audiences – Somewhere under the Rainbow