The Lens Through Which You See It

It’s been a tumultuous week. I lost a job that I haven’t actually been paid for yet. Well, I didn’t lose it. I wasn’t fired. It looked like I was being invited to stay on actually. But I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to stay. You see I have this fierce loyalty streak that doesn’t allow me to do anything else but be….loyal.

Let me start over. I was working on a tiny film crew. The director is a friend of mine, but I started working with her a few years ago and the friendship didn’t evolve over winebars and girltalk, the relationship built over a shared love of creative work and fierce independence. She was the director, I was the assistant. In other situations of work we’ve reversed that. I think of her as an equal partner in most everything.

And she was supposed to be an equal partner on the film we were working on with the producers. Equal footing and 50/50 down the middle as the contract stated, but sometimes when working with men who hold the purse strings their version of equality and actual equality are two separate things. It’s no different when working in academia really. Oh sure, they SAY they are doing things equally but when you find yourself at the bottom of a department when you’re the only one with awards, accolades, and publishing record because some men in the middle are just used to equality meaning that you can work in the same place instead of actual equality, then well it’s not equal at all.

There are men in the world who simply cannot work with women. Or refuse to. Or can work with them if they aren’t attracted to them. Or if they refuse to see them as women. There are these men who cannot wrap their heads around equality.

I know men who think women should only be employed after all men (read white men) have employment. Otherwise we women are taking jobs away from men.

I know men who think a woman defending herself means she’s being a diva. A men defending himself would be—well, being a man. Or man up as that obnoxious phrase goes.

The film job was exhilarating and somewhat emotionally complicated. Where I had to act as go between for two people with absolutely opposite visions for a film felt like the most complicated act ever. I tried to keep impartial and unbiased with no filter or lens. We’ve had weeks and events where I’m always trying to work ten steps ahead and get the right people in the right places at the right time. For the most part, I was successful. And at one point I thought hey I’m one bad ass PA/PC/ P whatever. Tiny crew and I’m like five people at once and I’m totally rocking it. Yeah. But it felt dishonest not to take a side. Because of course my side was with the director but at the same time I felt like my job was to hold us altogether.

But there were little things that were always problematic. For one thing our subject matter lent itself to a certain amount of objectification. We were/are interviewing models/photographers/artists in the world of alternative modeling. Clearly there would always be the looking at various people and their published images as objects rather than their inner person. So be it. It was always going to be there and part of the topic. But at the same time there are great moments of empowerment. I love that aspect. Much like finding out Bettie Page’s big photographer was a woman, not a man. Right fucking on. I love living in a world where it’s like, oh yeah, there’s men, cool, instead of MEN: THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE.

When we talked to women in this world last month I felt like we met some really cool people, in particular women. Women of all body types that came to this alternative modeling world for different reasons. My favorite stories are of the women who are building their confidence in themselves and their daughters. Well how fucking cool is that? We want to keep interviewing and talking to women and men in this scene that are in it for interesting, fun, and artistic reasons.

I wasn’t always sure that we were all on the same page on that one.

We just bit the hand that wasn’t feeding us very well anyway, my creative partner and I. The whole project was her idea in the first place. And now we are free, we are trying to forge a truer, more creative, and visionary path – one without objectification, one with empathy for our subjects, one where women’s voices are heard equally and not placating-ly. So we are regrouping.

It’s a lesson for artists to learn over and over again. Is publication, production, and gallery space worth the price if the vision is compromised? Do we stay in dead end jobs to help people when we aren’t being respected?
When are we divas and when are just plain fucking right?

When are they experienced professionals and when are they just sexist jerks afraid to take direction from women and afraid to take risks beyond the status quo? When is the bottom line of making the mainstream happy coming into play? Which part is which?
It’s the lens through which we see it.

About Margaret Elysia Garcia

Margaret Elysia Garcia is the author of short story ebook collection Sad Girls and Other Stories, and the audiobook Mary of the Chance Encounters, and the co-founder and lead playwright of Las Pachucas, theatrical troupe. She teaches creative writing and theatre in a California state prison.
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