Filmmaker Lucia Small’s Woman Discuss explores the microcosm of gender bias inside highschool debate competitions, following 5 woman debaters by way of their highschool years.
Maybe it ought to come as little shock that many outstanding feminine public figures—Sonia Sotomayor, Kamala Harris, Oprah Winfrey, the checklist goes on—had been all highschool debaters. In that enviornment, every of them overcame the percentages stacked towards them—women are much less prone to take part than boys, much less prone to proceed year-after-year, and even much less prone to win.
Filmmaker Lucia Small’s newest movie Woman Discuss explores the microcosm of gender bias inside highschool debate competitions by following 5 woman debaters by way of their highschool years on their workforce at Newton South in Massachusetts. The movie, which took Small eight years to finish, depicts how the women shift from mentees to mentors—one in all them even turning into the primary woman in 9 years to win the nationals.
The biases that exist in highschool debate competitions are well-known, and but consciousness has not eradicated discrimination. Ladies who compete adapt accordingly. At one second in Woman Discuss, a lady asks, “So that you wish to be extra aggressive with guys?” and one other responds, “No. It’s not about being extra aggressive; it’s about being extra assertive and curbing their aggression.” Earlier than these women have even launched into their careers, they have to embody a seemingly inconceivable preferrred.
Woman Discuss is Small’s fourth movie, and it marks considerably of a shift from her first-person documentaries resembling My Father, The Genius (2002) and two movies co-directed with Ed Pincus, The Axe within the Attic (2007) and One Minimize, One Life (2014). Woman Discuss received the Viewers Selection Award at its premiere at Impartial Movie Competition of Boston in April, and it continues to display at festivals, organizations and faculties. Small hopes the movie will encourage discussions about gender bias within the debate world—and past.
On this interview, Small talks about her inspiration for the movie and the way it speaks to bigger problems with how women and girls articulate themselves in arenas from politics to filmmaking.
Michele Meek: Inform me a bit about why this movie was so vital so that you can make.
Lucia Small: It has been my wrestle, my complete life, looking for a voice that I felt snug with—that wasn’t alienating, however on the similar time, wasn’t apologetic. I’m nonetheless navigating that. However Woman Discuss was a approach for me to have a look at—when do women, younger girls communicate up or start to close down? That’s normally in center faculty when hormones begin hitting. Nevertheless it’s societally with us from day one.
I bumped into an outdated pal in Central Park, who I used to play within the sandbox with. He informed me a narrative, which I had utterly forgotten—one time once we had been 5 or 6 in LA, he ran dwelling, crying to his mom and requested, “Mother, mother, what’s a male chauvinist pig?” So, from the start, I suppose I felt I needed to arise for myself. I had a father who each inspired me to be no matter I needed to be, be the artist that I might be, however who additionally had some totally different concepts about females. Then I skilled the ’70s and the ladies’s motion, and my mother was a divorcee, a single, working mother elevating three younger women, and the Supreme Courtroom simply handed Roe v. Wade. These had been thrilling instances for girls.
In some methods, I’ve been ready my complete life to make this movie. I felt as a lot as issues are altering, the scenario continues to be very related. And when the election of Hillary was looming, I assumed, this may go a few other ways. It may be this historic second the place we see a feminine president for the primary time, or there may be loads of backlash towards feminine empowerment.
It has been my wrestle, my complete life, looking for a voice that I felt snug with—that wasn’t alienating, however on the similar time, wasn’t apologetic. I’m nonetheless navigating that. However Woman Discuss was a approach for me to have a look at—when do women, younger girls communicate up or start to close down?
Meek: Why did you are feeling the subject of women in highschool debate was the proper angle for this subject?
Small: I knew nothing about debate, completely nothing, however what I did know was that girls and boys competed with one another and towards one another, which is uncommon for a sport. And I at all times name debate “the sports activities of the thoughts” as a result of the youngsters are as devoted as college students who compete in athletic sports activities. The non-public faculties typically have paid debate coaches. And sure, there’s additionally loads of elitism in debate. However, nonetheless, the world of debate supplied a novel atmosphere during which to check and distinction totally different preconceptions about confidence, perceptual dominance, and the like between women and boys.
I’ve at all times finished work that’s near my actuality. Even with The Axe within the Attic I needed to acknowledge my privilege and my standpoint. I’ve been preventing for that my complete life when it comes to filmmaking. I’ve at all times needed to do one thing that was considerably acquainted to me the place I may convey a special perspective. So a public faculty that was well-funded with dad and mom who had been energetic of their kids’s lives, that was a actuality of my friends rising up in Los Angeles. So all of it labored collectively. And when the talk coach Josh Cohen mentioned, “Come movie us at Newton South Excessive College,” I jumped. In documentary, entry is at all times key.
Meek: So clearly you didn’t understand how nicely their workforce would do once you began…
Small: We had heard that they had been workforce, however we didn’t understand how distinctive their workforce was. We didn’t know that they taught one another—that’s very uncommon. We didn’t know that they had been one of many groups that had essentially the most women on it. And so they had been a big workforce as a result of we found that the profitable groups normally spotlight two to 3 groups, and so they go to all these tournaments and develop into proficient and get coaches that may assist do the analysis and all people else drops out. I imply, there may be an underbelly of people that wrestle to search out their voice in that very aggressive environment of debate.
However we turned concerned about discovering a robust workforce with highly effective women’ voices. And what we found is that, sure, it’s a robust workforce with highly effective women, however they nonetheless struggled with their confidence a lot extra in relationship to the boys. There was simply an attention-grabbing exuding of confidence that the boys had that the women—even very good, good debaters—didn’t have, and didn’t translate on digital camera.
The world of debate supplied a novel atmosphere during which to check and distinction totally different preconceptions about confidence, perceptual dominance, and the like between women and boys.
Meek: There’s some extent within the movie the place one of many coaches, I feel, says that in the event that they had been to eliminate gender bias in judging, “then the women could have been educated to carry out nicely in a world that doesn’t exist.”
Small: The vanity of the movie was: As an viewers member, how do you decide? I needed, as with all my movies, for the viewers to query their biases, their judgment that they convey into the viewing expertise. And I needed to catch myself too. On the slicing room ground, Bella, one of many protagonists, talks about how she turned a decide and the way she abruptly noticed her personal bias.
So it’s attention-grabbing what we consider as formal, profitable public talking. I imply, personally, proper now, as I’m doing this interview, I’m nervous about whether or not I’ll I come off assured and articulate sufficient? Will I be too cocky, too apologetic? It’s at all times with me, the second guessing.
Meek: Not with me although!
Small: No, not with you. I really feel belief and I really feel snug as a result of we all know one another, however in an interview and even up on stage, I’m at all times questioning.
Throughout Q&As with my former collaborator Ed Pincus, I used to be this lengthy blonde haired a lot youthful lady who lots of people would make assumptions about. Initially, the viewers would typically direct their inquiries to Ed. So, I needed to begin sporting library glasses, with my hair pulled up in a bun, and it was exceptional how after that, I used to be way more included, though not totally. Constantly, I heard these items directed to him, like, oh, so that you’re sleeping along with her. He thought all of it very amusing; I assumed it outrageous. He and I had loads of heated discussions about his white male privilege, and the way it performed out in our inventive partnership. Some individuals watch One Cut, One Life and nonetheless consider how may we may NOT be sleeping with one another. Folks make loads of incorrect assumptions. So, traditionally, I’ve tackled loads of points when it comes to questioning whether or not individuals take me and my work severely.
Traditionally, I’ve tackled loads of points when it comes to questioning whether or not individuals take me and my work severely.
Meek: I feel this broader subject comes by way of within the movie—how girls should rigorously stroll this line between being taken severely, however not coming throughout as off-putting. Have been you aware about connecting these bigger points to the movie?
Small: From day one, even earlier than the movie, I noticed it as related. I knew some politicians carried out in debates—the truth is, a part of why the talk area appeared like the proper place to go is due to Elizabeth Warren. I learn her guide, and he or she talks extensively about debate. And Sonia Sotomayor talks about debate and the way it empowered her. I simply bear in mind the talk workforce as being filled with actually good children who went off to Harvard. And I preferred the youngsters, however I wasn’t pals with them. I used to be an athlete. However, I feel I even heard a quote from Obama about debate being vital.
I felt a connection was there immediately, after which towards the backdrop of the Hillary Clinton election, the story of those women turned that rather more related when she misplaced. Nevertheless it was at all times an vital thread that debate represented the microcosm of the nationwide stage.
Meek: Woman Discuss accommodates hopeful moments in addition to some moments that made me really feel like possibly nothing will ever change—like the purpose when a coach says that he thinks the judges would take offense if you happen to informed them that they had been biased.
Small: That was Josh, and he’s tapped into the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League. There’s a nice line between individuals with the ability to personal their very own bias or not. Some persons are open to taking criticism and suggestions whereas loads of different individuals aren’t. We regularly merely do lip service in figuring out the systemic issues. However, how do we actually prepare judges and debaters to truly shift their preconceptions and bias mindset?
I strongly consider that the facility of movie is within the asking of the questions reasonably than offering the solutions. Viewers can come to their very own conclusions and/or hopefully have extra significant discussions about these concepts. The Woman Discuss workforce is devoted to touching audiences past the display, and sparking vital discussions about gender bias, implicit bias, classism, racism and the significance of fact-based analysis and dialogue when it comes to sustaining a democracy.
What I actually hope to do with this movie is to encourage a technology of younger individuals, each women and boys, to have a look at this mannequin of collaboration and the way, despite the fact that you don’t need [bias] to exist, it does. So, what can we actively do about this? Regardless that you suppose you’re woke, it’s important to hold questioning your “wokeness.” Every part is up for grabs and must be re-evaluated. And with Roe v. Wade significantly threatened, dialogue round girls’s rights has develop into extra pressing and urgent.
I hope that the movie—in our outreach and constructing a motion—we are going to see an actual impression. I imply, the massive dream is to lastly move the ERA.
This interview has been condensed and edited for readability. For extra info go to https://girltalkfilm.com/.