Feminism meets Film: an Interview with Girls* Riot!

On the 7th of May the .divers editorial staff took part in the teenageinternetwork convention TINCON in Berlin. TINCON provides a platform for young people between the ages of 13 and 21 to discuss and share political issues and the latest digital trends. While we were there, we interviewed Girls* Riot! who were there as speakers. Girls* Riot! are a group of 4 girls* between the ages of 16 and 17 with an international background. They all participated in the workshop named “Girls* Riot!”, that was part of the 34th edition of the “Interfilm” & 11th edition of the “KUKI” film festivals in 2018.

For this workshop they curated a diverse, queer feminist and provocative short film program, which they presented at the Interfilm & KUKI film festivals. The workshop took place for the first time ever and was sponsored by the “Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk” with the intention to bring focus to the living environment of young women*. Together with Monika Treut, Sophie Rieger and Brenda Lien, the participants exchanged views on women’s rights and identity and talked about gender, diversity and (self-) perception. 

The girls* of Girls* Riot! are Rosa Lynch, Magdeleen Snyman, Victoria Deeniv und Amelie Meier. Rosa is 16 years old. Her parents are from England and Ireland, but she has lived in Berlin her entire life. She loves writing and wants to be a writer. Oh, and she hates school. Magdeleen is from South Africa and is 17 years old. She has lived in Berlin for 3 years. She actually likes school and wants to study medicine when she finishes. Victoria is 17 years old, comes from Moldova and is an aspiring artist. She does everything from film making, art, photography to music and she also hates school. Amelie is from Berlin and she is 16 years old. For the interview we talked about the “Girls* Riot!” workshop, feminism and its impact on their lives.

.divers: What was your main motivation for taking part in this workshop? Was it the artistic part or just the feminist topics or was it both? What encouraged you to do it?

Victoria: I want to be a film maker, so I just saw the word „film“ and I thought „ok, let’s do this“, because I don’t have that much experience yet and I just wanted to get into that environment and this actually got me very far in the right direction because I met so many people because of it. I didn’t know that it was a feminist workshop at all, and it educated me a lot. Even though I already had those ideologies or values in me, it organized them a lot in my head.

Rosa: For me it was the opposite! I was like „Feminism? Cool, sign me up!“ It was also my interest in short film as well, but mainly it was the feminist topics and getting to now other girls who are interested in the same things as me.

Magdeleen: I know Monica Koshka, who is the artistic director at the KUKI film festival. She asked me if I wanted to join in, so she sent me the forms and I was in a phase of just saying yes to any opportunity that came along.  So, I went in not expecting anything and not knowing what it was going to be about. I knew we were going to watch some films and that’s about it. I learned so much about feminism, about the film industry. I did not know or did not actually care until now who the directors of films are or how many female roles there are, and it really opened my eyes to how the film industry works. So now, every time I watch a film, I pay more attention to these things.

Amelie: I totally agree! Now I also pay more attention to how the female roles are being portrayed in films. For example, we talked about the Disney Film „Tarzan“ and how there is only this one girl in the whole film and she had to sing about standing in the kitchen and brushing her hair. It was so shocking to me and I have not noticed that before, so the workshop was really eye opening.

.divers: Do you feel like you can talk openly about feminist issues with your friends or do you feel like they see you as the spoilsport when you do that?

Rosa: Yeah…sometimes I do feel a little bit like the spoilsport. But not really with my friends because either they tolerate me the way I am, or they are not my real friends. A lot of my friends have been friends with me for a very long time, so we know each other’s quirks and deal with each other very well. A friend of mine does however sometimes say „Can we just watch one rom com without you ruining it?“ and I’m like „OK…That’s fair!“ But in my class, I do feel a little bit more like I have to make sure that I’m not being too much. There are some people that I am watching myself around and sometimes I just simply don’t want to get in an argument because I got to the point where I can realize that nothing I say is going to change their opinion and I am not going to waste my time and my energy telling these arseholes that they are arseholes over and over again.

Victoria: Definitely! Same for me! I didn’t use to speak up my mind because I come from Moldova and I moved around a lot, to Spain and back and then to Germany, so I was bullied a lot. But then coming here I started to speak up and to just don’t give a fuck, to be honest. But that also makes people mad. From my experience it’s especially teenage boys but also adults who are irritated when I speak up because they tell me not to educate them. I’ve been told that so many times by relatives and family members, so then eventually I started shutting up and not saying anything again. And also, because I am new to Berlin, I don’t really have any friends who are like me yet because I am more of an indie-hippie soul, so people are somehow weirded out by the stuff I say, so I just keep it to myself. I think that it’s stupid, but I know that it’s not…So yeah…it’s quite hard actually.

.divers: What are your ways of coping with not being taken seriously or being heard? Are there any ways you fight that?

Rosa: I run to my mum. My mum is so great, and she listens to everything I say, even when I rant for a whole hour and she has to just sit there and listen to me.

Amelie: I think I get mad pretty fast and I just yell around and then people understand that it is very serious and important to me, so they start listening. I don’t think it is always the solution to just start yelling at people, but sometimes it is exactly that moment when people really start listening to you.

Victoria: I also get mad fast and I cry very easily, but instead of being heard I am just being told that it is just a defense mechanism and that I should stop crying.

 .divers: I think that is such a shame! I also get mad easily and I am being told so often to stop being so emotional. That really annoys me, because it indicates that emotionality is a weakness or a flaw. I think there is no way around emotionality when discussing feminist issues, because it is a personal and emotional issue and it is affecting all of us and we have a right to be mad and to cry about and it is totally ok!

Amelie: Sometimes the best way to make people aware of their actions is to reflect their actions and tell them what they said or did and how that affected you in order to get them thinking about it.

Rosa: My tactic when someone make a sexist or racist joke, is to ask them why they think it is funny. Then they have to explain themselves and the usually end up hearing how sexist or racist they were, because they are not completely unselfaware.

Amelie: Sometimes you can even turn the joke the other way around. For example, if someone makes a joke about a female person, you can just turn it around to the male perspective and when it’s not funny that way, you realize that it’s because it is probably sexist.

20190507_184337from left to right: Victoria Deeniv, Amelie Meier, Magdeleen Snyman, Rosa Lynch

.divers: Did you come in touch with feminist topics, intersectionality and queer feminism before taking part in the workshop or do you see this workshop as an introduction to these topics?

Rosa: I was raised in a very feminist household and my parents always made me feel secure in my feminism. With me being bi, intersectional feminism was like the next step where I became more aware of the privileges that I have and the privileges that I don’t have. So, I was already quite in tune with all of that before taking part in the workshop, but it’s always nice to hear and learn about new perspectives.

Magdeleen: I grew up not really talking about things like feminism, sexism, racism because those specific topics never came up. It’s not like my parents were trying to hide it or anything, it was just topics that apparently weren’t needed to be talked about. Coming here I learned a lot about feminism. Equality is very important in my household, but in this workshop, I got exposed to a lot of different topics I knew about but didn’t really talk to anyone about. Seeing these films, that depict so many different problems that women* face, made me realize how much these things do need to be talked about, discussed and evaluated in order to get a clear understanding of them and to start thinking about how to make change happen.

Victoria: I wasn’t really aware of what feminism is. However, I can say that I already had most of these ideas as my personal values and I was questioning them within myself, but never out loud. One week before the workshop I went to a music festival. A guy there asked me why I shave and while I was taking off my makeup, he asked me why I felt the need to wear it. That was really intense and made me think a lot about why I do these things and who I’m doing them for. Now I don’t shave anymore. That was a very liberating experience, because I realized that I don’t need to do these things for anyone else, I just need to do them for myself if I want to. So, coming to the workshop with that experience on my mind, and learning about so many new perspectives really empowered me.

Amelie: I feel like I was a feminist before the workshop. What the workshop did to me is that it brought in more aspects of feminism, different cultures and how differently feminism is perceived and understood all over the world. For example we watched a film about female genital mutilation and I was never really aware of it until then and when I talked to my friends about it, they also didn’t know about it but they felt really disgusted by the fact that it is still happening to so many girls* to this day. I feel like there is so much more we need to change in the world, and we need to talk about so many different things and inform ourselves in order to increase the quality of life for female people all over the world.

.divers: Do you have anything to say to encourage other people, especially people your age, to start discussing and thinking about feminism and intersectionality?

Magdeleen: It’s ok to talk about uncomfortable things.

Amelie: And it’s also necessary!

Magdeleen: I mean at the beginning I was not happy with some of the films, because at first, I thought they were really inappropriate, and they made me feel uncomfortable. But the more we discussed the problems shown in these films, the more I realized that it is ok to openly talk about uncomfortable things and the problems we are facing. Because the more you talk about uncomfortable things, the less uncomfortable they become!

Rosa: If you’ve got something that you care about, you should talk about it and you should research it. I think that there is a bit of a taboo against feminism, but it is worth it to start trying to break free from it. Get informed and be aware. Become aware of a viewpoint that you wouldn’t have noticed before, look at the media you’re consuming, look where you get your news, what films you watch, what books you read, even the music you listen to just to be aware of how other people are being represented  in a way you never thought of before.

Victoria: My advice is to give less fucks about unimportant things. I’m actually reading a book about it, it’s called „The subtle art of not giving a fuck“. My second advice is to do everything you do for yourself first and not for others. For example when you want to speak to somebody, instead of stopping yourself from doing it by worrying about how that person is going to react or if you would make them uncomfortable, start thinking about your feelings and why it is important to you and how you can make it happen. Do it for yourself to see how you feel.

Amelie: What I consider to be most important is to be aware of your closest circle of friends and family because it’s these people who you can talk to the best. Look at what is happening directly around you and call out inappropriate behavior and open up a conversation about that behavior. I think that that is the first step we all have to make. And don’t let adults tell you that you can’t teach them anything. Be confident about your knowledge!

.divers: Thank you very much for this interesting discussion!

Are you also interested in taking part in the Girls* Riot! workshop?  If you are a young woman* between the ages of 15 and 17, you are interested in movies, you want to discuss issues such as women’s rights, gender, diversity and film aesthetics, and are in Berlin from June 24th to 28th 2019, you can apply here

Hast du auch Lust bekommen bei den Girls* Riot! Workshop mitzumachen? Wenn du eine junge Frau* zwischen 15 und 17 Jahren bist, dich für Filme interessierst, dich mit Themen wie Frauenrechte, Gender, Diversity und Filmästhetik beschäftigen willst und vom 24. bis zum 28. Juni 2019 in Berlin sein kannst, dann melde dich hier an!

Interview geführt von Theodora Brad und Lea Terlau
Titelbild mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Helena Köster
Foto von Theodora Brad

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