When I was a university student there was a slogan chanted by the more militant feminists:
All men are rapists.
Their suggested solution to this problem was to “Cheese wire all sexist bastards.” (i.e. cut off all male genitals). It was a provocative response but revealed how many women perceived the world as a hostile place, experiencing sexism, chauvinism and oppression on a daily basis. Move on three decades and little appears to have changed. Today figures were released by the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK that show a record number of prosecutions in England and Wales for violence against women and girls. The figures include cases of rape, domestic violence and honor killing, while figures released by the University of Michigan show that more than 20% of female students experienced “some sort of nonconsensual sexual behavior in the past year,” with around 12% experiencing “nonconsensual sexual penetration.” It’s dispiriting reading to think for all the progressive politics, feminism and political correct agendas, little has really changed in the relationship between men and women.
Amy Everson in opening sequence of ‘Felt.’
A new film Felt by documentary filmmaker Jason Banker and artist Amy Everson highlights the issue of endemic sexism and the extreme responses it can inspire. Felt is the story of a young woman Amy (Amy Everson) who is disconnected from the world and finds her everyday life is a “fucking nightmare.” She is (apparently) recovering from some kind of sexual trauma—what this may be is never made explicit—other than her character saying around halfway through the movie that women are brutalized by men and invalidated for not having a dick. To cope with the sexism and hostility she feels around her, Amy designs herself a “man suit”—think Buffalo Bill’s skinsuit, but this one’s made of nylon—in which she parades around her secret hideaway in a local wood—experiencing her new identity and having dreams of being a “superhero.” Her close female friends think something is wrong and try to help, but Amy believes she is just expressing herself—or exorcising her demons—as she thinks best.
You kinda feel this ain’t gonna end well…
The men and women around Amy tend to be little more than caricatures: they’re either dumb or douchebags. An emo rambles on about roofies and rape; a Christian woman wants to pray for Amy; a friend’s abusive boyfriend, an engineer, demands respect for being, well, an engineer, a useful part of society and a man; the photographer objectifies women but is disgusted by their bodily functions (farting); and so on. We are dropped into this world without any back story—the man suit appears first appears around fifteen minutes in—or a real emotional connection with Amy and therefore Felt demands the audience bring a lot of understanding/sympathy for Amy and her experience of the world.
If you go down to the woods today…
Felt has the feel of a hybrid, which in essence it is. Originally intended as a music video, the film developed into a documentary about Amy Everson and her art, which is inspired by her own sexual trauma, before becoming an improvised film. Being improvised means some of the actors appear to be merely reacting to Amy’s performance rather than presenting real characters.
Everson gives a very good performance, though at times it seemed as though I was watching Everson being Everson rather than Everson being “Amy,” and there is good support from the cast especially by the scene-stealing Roxanne Lauren Knouse. Jason Banker’s direction (and camerawork) is highly assured and very impressive—the opening montage of images is like a short art film. Overall, Felt is a feminist tale for today and has many good things to recommend it. You can judge for yourself as Felt goes on release from tomorrow details here.