NOT TOO LONG AGO I was despairing over the seemingly never ending cycle of news about the potential diminution of our democratic institutions and the loss of civility at the hands of an officeholder whom Frederick Douglass would have said was “destitute of every character commanding respect.” When I spoke out, someone on social media said I should “stay in my lane.” This is my lane! I am a woman, and a citizen; a mother, a grandmother, a sister and an aunt; a businesswoman and a mentor, a community member and an intelligent, rational human being who cares fiercely about this country, and about this world and its future. If I don't speak out, if we don't speak out, we risk the possibility of the extinction of all lanes.
Too many times in history the voices of women have been silenced. Too many times our ideas and contributions have been minimized or marginalized. Too many times our stories have been labeled too frivolous, our demands too impertinent. Too many times we have been passed over for promotions or for roles on the screen in favor of someone whose penis and testosterone gave them a presumption of superiority. But in recent years our voices have been recognized in the #MeToo, #TimesUp movements that go far beyond the topics of sexual abuse. These voices are gaining steam in advocating for a more egalitarian society. For one that values the roles and contributions of women, of people of color, of people of varying ethnicities, religions, physical abilities and genders.
But it doesn't come easily. In each instance we have had to pivot out of a comfort zone and proclaim our lane because no one is standing at the finish line with a towel and a glass of water waiting to cede it to us. By linking our arms in sisterhood we find a new strength, a new light, a new hope for the future and a new blueprint for the young girls and boys following in our footsteps. Maybe one day peace will be valued as much as war, compassion and kindness more than bullying, integrity and equality more than bald-faced ambition at any cost. The feminine consciousness writ large can help to change our world.
And so for this Women's History Month, March 2019, we once again present a week of writing from women. We want to raise the symphony of women's voices and proclaim: I'm a Woman, I gave birth to the Universe, the whole world is my lane.
Our newest editor, Nell Minow, writes beautifully below about our Women Writers Week and why we are continuing this tradition. Today, in addition to publishing new articles, we will also present some previously published reviews and articles that were deemed favorites. We want to give over the whole page to our female writers, and we will do so from today, Monday, until the end of the week. We hope you come along with us each day. Thank you, Chaz Ebert
Roger Ebert famously called film an “empathy machine.” All stories help us understand different experiences, whether those experiences are our own, those of people like us, or those of people we may never meet who are different in every way. If the story is good, we will learn that they are less different than we thought. We all love and want to be loved. We all worry about how we come across to others and whether we will achieve what we hope for. We all fear change that seems like a loss.
I believe that movies bring those stories home more powerfully than any other art form. They combine the best of every other kind of storytelling, narrative, dialogue, visuals, and music. And movies are the most immersive form of art, with close-ups that all but erase the line between the audience and the performers. Roger said that a movie “lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”
But what is the purpose of this increased awareness if we do not put it into practice, and use whatever we have to strengthen and share our extended sense of connection? That is the reason for our Women Writers Week. Through empathy we have greater respect for diverse voices, especially from those who do not have the luxury of majority privilege. Thanks to our founder, Chaz Ebert, we have made great progress in gender parity and other categories of diversity outreach for the writers who appear on our site. But we believe it is worth making a special effort to pay tribute to the women who write for RogerEbert.com by highlighting our work and our voices. We are grateful to our male colleagues and friends on the site for recognizing the importance of what is now an annual event and hope you will discover some new favorites among the writers who are participating.
We do not pretend that women have more empathy or indeed that it is possible to make any generalization about gender with one exception: every one of us has walked through the world as a woman and that is an experience only we can understand and reflect in our take on the films we write about. It may be less important in what we bring than our own particular points of view based on our individual experiences—whether we are old or young, hetero-normative or LGBQTIA, partnered or single, mothers or childless, baby boomers, Gen-Xers, or millennials, from the city or the country, from the US or international, white or a woman of color, whatever our level of education or amount of money, whether we are fans of Korean horror movies or anime or multiplex fodder or quirky indies, all of those elements are reflected in our writing, as they are for the male critics. But all of us understand what it is to live in a culture that has always been dominated by another gender, and review films that come out of a system that has been even more so.
This week, with every word on the site written by women, our readers of any gender will see the fabulous range of talent, insight, and perspectives of our female contributors. If you look closely, you may see something else—a consistent perception by writers who are at least in part outsiders to the stories overwhelmingly told by men. Sharing their perspectives creates an empathy machine of our own.