“Shut Up and Go Make Your Feminist Film”
It was a Sunday night just outside of the entrance to the Essex Street subway station in the Lower East Side, Manhattan.
My friends and I were making a short film.
About the subway.
Our camera battery was quickly dying, and our actors and camera crew were getting tired. We were trouble-shooting a lighting issue. The streetlight was causing a rather obnoxious shadow. Most of our shots required audible conversation in a noisy subway car, this was also making things difficult.
But we were doing it. We were making a short film. In New York City. And it felt great.
That is, until who I can only assume was a 20something Financial Analyst named “Todd” came in guns blazing on the sidewalk trying to touch our boom mic.
“BOUNCIN’ AROUND, BOUNCIN’ AROUND, BOUNCIN’,” he wailed with his tongue wagging, reaching for the furry device.
“Excuse me, sir!” I closed the distance between me and the $1,000 microphone. “Expensive equipment on set!”
Dude. Are you freaking serious right now? I mean I know it looks like a penis, but can you not? Also, was that a Rihanna song lyric?
He scoffed and snorted back to his gaggle of Chad’s and Tyler’s, “Pfff, shut up and go make your feminist film!”
He laughed with his back turned and flew off into the night.
His comments took us all off guard. Our poor sound gal had her ear drums blasted from the headphones she was wearing to adjust levels as he came screeching in. I was also really pissed off at his tone with the words ‘feminist film.’ This was a comedic piece about our misadventures on the subway. The cast included a character named “Crazy Oil Salesman” and “Igor,” a 2-year-old who belongs to no man and trolls the platforms looking for Gummy Bears.
This was no “feminist film.” Whatever that meant.
And even if it had been, c’mon, Todd, don’t you have better shit to do than to wreck our fancy equipment?
Also, how dare you, Todd. You see four women and you think it’s totes chill to harass us right here on the streets of New York?
My producer Kylie told me to let it go because we were running out of camera life and it wasn’t worth it. We had a job to do. We hustled back to the platform for the final scenes.
When I got home from the shoot, I couldn’t shake how un-empowered I felt by the whole thing. It took the wind out of my sails every time I thought about his stupid argyle socks sticking out of his freshly polished loafers.
Was this what it was like to be a female in filmmaking? Just a bunch of bros sabotaging my creative process and trying to break my stuff
Luckily, being a feminist who surrounds herself with other badass feminists, the way out of this dark hole was a simple as a Twitter hashtag. We posted a picture of the cast and crew and tagged it with #notafeministfilm.
“Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we actually made a ‘feminist film?’” Kylie said only half joking.
“Or, we could make a film about that guy telling us that we’re making a feminist film,” I added.
Kylie started drafting the script the next day. The scene includes us on the sidewalk, working out our lighting problem, when Todd/Chad/Tyler rolls up with his big line. Immediately the camera cuts to one of our faces and we jump cut to how we wish the scene would go down.
Khitam the camerawoman’s fantasy plays out with smearing tribal war paint on her face and throwing a harpoon through his chest.
Kylie daydreams of retreating to a safe feminist coworking space to hold a conference on what it means to earn the title ‘feminist.’
And my imagination leads me to pulling a bottle of Rosé out of my purse and crying: “Why would you say that? I am so nice to men! I don’t even sit on the subway seat when you guys spread your legs out!”
We are still working out the final pieces of this short film. It’s possible that the final scenario pictured will just be us carrying on with our shoot as planned, paying him no attention as he makes repeated attempts to derail us.
Being a woman in creative spaces is not always fun and empowering. Especially when confronted with harassment, disrespect, and just plain ol’ misogyny. It can take women years to excel in their artistic fields. It can be a long and grueling road. It can come in the form of street-side aggression, mansplaining, and internet trolls.
No, we’re not going to shut up.
But we will go ahead and make that feminist film.
That’s the best idea you’ve had all day, Todd.
Mimi Hayes is an NYC-based author, comedian, and curly-headed cartoon figure found on the back of napkins and old receipts. Her debut memoir, "I'll Be OK, It's Just a Hole in My Head" is set to release in September 2018 as well as her upcoming science-comedy podcast Mimi and the Brain. You can follow her at mimihayes.com and on Instagram and Twitter @mimihayesbrain.
All views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the author.