Contrary to the language of “me too” and the language of academia, both strategically regressive, it is possible to raise the most urgent questions of feminism in 2023 in a progressive and accessible way: this is what Katharina Mückstein’s «Feminism WTF» proves. Absolutely a must-see to discuss! Here’s just a start.
Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
Feminism is trendy again, and it is good news for an issue, the gender dichotomy, that for centuries has awaited radical reformulation. The bad news is that the popularity of feminism seems to allow everyone to improvise using and abusing outdated slogans and searching for easy consensus. In this context, Katharina Mückstein’s film is a powerful voice out of the new-conformist choir, insofar as it is able, with rare precision and understandable language, in pointing out what I see as the three most urgent topics to be raised and assessed (there are more topics than the three I’m going to pick up here, but these three topics make this film truly exceptional to my eyes). This is also thanks to an impressive work of casting: if all university professors would have the energy and clarity of the ones that compose the mosaic of this talking-heads film, university would get its old credibility back…
First, the core of the feminist challenge - in 2023 - is neither the aggressive (read: masculine) revenge of one particular gender against another, according to an inversion of power that would confirm the patriarchal obsession with domination, and nor is it the celebration of what patriarchalism has attributed to women: tenderness, care, generosity (even if such values certainly will do some good to our societies). At stake is the dismantling of every form of binarity in favour of a gender plurality and fluidity of which both (socially determined) men and women can take advantage and find their own way of living. Queerness first, to sum up the feminist agenda in one word, a challenge that should go even beyond the idea of infinite degrees between the two archetypes of woman and man, and rather push us to explore gender creativity. As every change that concerns the “grammar” of our being in the world, it implies an epistemological revolution; not an easy change but one of an enormous force of liberation for each personality.
Second, through a convincing convergence of positions among the protagonists of Feminism WTF, Mückstein insists in underlining how patriarchalism is necessarily bound to colonialism and racism, that are similarly necessarily bound to capitalism: they share the same logic of exploitation, which expands exemplarily into the current grotesque exploitation of planetary resources. Today, we have enough historical and geographical knowledge to allow ourselves to approach these issues separately. A feminist awakening, in 2023, automatically means to be aware and fight the contemporary forms of colonial and capitalist exploitation.
Third, a pragmatic reflection: it is definitely more effective to focus on children’s educations rather than hoping that a majority of adults actually impose a revolution on their own lives. If feminism today concerns the grammar of our being in the world, we should operate the change where this grammar is actually written, that being during the very first years, even months, of our lives. The experiment about the behaviour of adults playing with babies that Mückstein has us experience, as viewers, is of tremendous impact in order to reveal the unconscious patriarchal education that adults spontaneously give to children.
As a cinema viewer, I would have liked to have more of these practical examples in the film – another also quite effective one allows us to visualise how gender and race still determine the psychological condition of people in Western societies. The Austrian filmmaker also inserts performative “pauses” of dance in order to balance the centrality of the word in her film. Moreover, she opts for a strong aesthetic outline through vivid colours for each protagonist in order to express the idea of plurality also visually. Feminism WTF is cinematically smart, visually catchy and nicely edited, but fundamentally oriented to the communication of its complex but never tedious content. A very urgent content that is able to target the broadest audience and the circle of people debating feminism at the same time – another rare aspect for a documentation.
When I came out of the cinema, as editor of Filmexplorer, I felt myself the urgency of discussing and suggesting Feminism WTF. I immediately thought of several female contributors of Filmexplorer who are quite sensitive to feminism. However, I thought that a positive reaction to this film should at least start with a male voice or, better, a voice that is passionately interested in feminism independently of its being determined by gender. In fact, a further important point of the film concerns biological determinism as a huge obstacle for feminism. Neither biological nor social or cultural determinism should apply for a discussion that focuses on changing the grammar of our being in the world. For this reason, men – be they biologically, socially or culturally determined as such – should participate in the debate as much as any other person. Strategically, they should also be involved even more than any other person, exactly because they may appear to be far from interested in the discussion.
Therefore, these sketchy reflections on Katharina Mückstein’s Feminism WTF are meant to be only a starting point for an open discussion that Filmexplorer will be pleased to host. Just write to us!
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Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres
Feminism WTF | Film | Katharina Mückstein | AT 2023 | 96’ | CH-Distribution: Vinca Film
First published: December 12, 2023