On Monday night, #WIFTV honored me as 2016 Woman of the Year. I’ve had some requests to post the speech I gave at the event, so here it is.
Trigger warning: feminism included.
“I’m not very good at rules. So my speech is a bit longer than the others. But I have things to say. We all do. Because it’s our time to speak up.
But first, the thank-you segment. [cut for anonymity]
And to all the incredible hands that have propped me up for some many years, shoulders that absorbed my tears and backbones for inspiring me. Heroes. We all need heroes. And all of you are those.
I’ve never considered myself a Woman-of-the Year type. I’m more the Tank-Girl post-punk feminist Warrior.
But Woman of the Year? I like it. Yeah. Especially because it reminds me of one of my inspirations, the original trouser-wearing maverick, Katharine Hepburn,
who was a feminist before the word trended, and then un-trended, and trended and untrended….
Feminist in the pure sense — not the much maligned misunderstood man-hating sense — Standing for Equality: Equal Pay. Equal Employment. Equal Rights.
And it reminds me of the interesting but flawed film Katharine Hepburn made with Spencer Tracy in 1942 — the film named for the NEW ME - the film entitled “Woman of the Year”,
As a teen, I loved the Tracy/Hepburn collaborations - their crisp combative dialogue and her righteous independence.
But somehow I knew that the ending of Woman of the Year was a disappointment, but I couldn’t remember why.
So I went on that inter-web thingy and learned some amazing facts about why the film is the perfect microcosm of Hollywood.
“The film’s plot is ostensibly about the relationship between Tess Harding, an international affairs correspondent, chosen “Woman of the Year,” and Sam Craig, a sports writer, who meet, marry, and encounter problems as a result of her unflinching commitment to her work.”
It’s an interesting problematic work, showing off Hepburn as a smart independent woman, then a partner in marriage, until it falls apart BECAUSE she is a strong independent career woman.
The film was made to laud the equality of the sexes, and to showcase Hepburn holding her own against the irascible Tracy. And then the film crashes and burns — with a terrible ending. Why?
The answer is painfully Hollywood. In the end, the studio didn’t want Hepburn to be equal. They insisted she had to get her comeuppance.
Yes, seriously — and how did they do that?
By re-writing the ending to put Hepburn’s character in the kitchen and embarrass her with her failings there.
See what that valuable career did to you!
What could be more predictable or better presage women’s futures in the film business?
Ring Lardner, one of the co-writers, whose outspokenness ultimately landed him on the Hollywood blacklist, didn’t mince words — he complained that they (quote)“completely f*cked it up”. (unquote)
So, then what happens? —— The screenplay wins an Oscar.
Yup. 1942. The woman must fail. Even the Woman of the Year. Or, especially the Woman of the Year?
Needless to say, the road from 1942 to 2016 has been less than smooth.
As a woman director, I’ve had my own battleground. In the big picture, I may look like I’ve held my own, but I haven’t. The scars are deep. And the problems aren’t over, as everyone here knows. The Film Industry is a disaster on gender and diversity and First Nations issues.
I have spent many years being told NEVER to mention it — threatened that it was ’a sure fire way never to get hired’.
Recently I was talking to my agents about my ambitions after finishing directing Sherlock. And they said ‘Yes, you have done Sherlock. yeah, the other Sherlock directors have all been offered pilots and features off the back of it. But remember, you are a woman”. It kind of took my breath away, to hear it stated so plainly. It wasn’t aggressive. It was so painfully casual, they probably wouldn’t even remember saying it. That’s what shocked me.
They simply meant, “We’re just going to have to work that much harder, but also be realistic about your expectations.’
I felt sick …. so I called the Doctor.
[Which requires a Knock Knock Joke and audience participation:]
Knock Knock …
Doctor Who — exactly.
Ok so I called that doctor. I wanted his two hearts and his sonic screwdriver to fix it.
But you can’t sonic this away.
So instead he gave me some advice. He said “Just remember, one thing does not lead to another.”
And what the Doctor meant, in his 4 billion years of time travel and experience and wisdom, was not just that Time is nonLInear. But that you can’t expect it to come your way. You can’t be complacent or believe you will be rewarded. You have to go out, earn it, make it happen. Stand FOR something, not just AGAINST it. [are you listening, Mr. Trump?]
Loving, fixing, changing, that’s the hard part.
We all stand for women/diversity/First Nation’s voices.
All these underrepresented groups have stories to tell. The industry has to stop silencing us. If we can’t find support from the government, and to quote our PM “it’s 2016”. future generations will be missing out on more than half of the world’s stories and even more opportunities.
So let me stand with you —
Let me unchain your beasts and allow you to speak and write and create. Let me open the mouths of the oppressed women…of the missing women from the trailer [to the film On The Farm about Vancouver missing women from 1995-2001 – watch here: ] you saw for the film we made, so these women are not lost.
Let us all be invited to speak…
if, as the doctor said, one thing doesn’t lead to another, then we won’t look only at the barriers, we can run around them, knock them down, vault over them and the next hurdle and the next and the next and the next — until we find we’ve passed all the hurdles and we are only faced with opportunities.
Never give up.
Our creativity is our freedom. It’s a super-power. It won’t be silenced.
as a Post-Punk feminist Warrior, I chose to leave you with a lyric from the late 70’s punk band Xray Spex:
a lyric I speak to the industry and the oppressors who have kept our voices silenced.
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard.
Jules’ look was a modern version of Katherine Hepburn – I incorporated classic menswear inspired jackets and trousers into her look. She has strong pieces in her wardrobe, but she wears them with ease. She is the ultimate girlboss!
Jacqueline Oknaia, costume designer for The Intern.