In the age where the #MeToo movement is literally on the move, the latest documentary from the Swiss freelance documentary filmmaker Barbara Miller #FEMALE PLEASURE is one to be noted. Miller showcases five young female innovators who use their stories to educate society on present-day abuse of women--cultural, physical, psychological, and emotional.
Miller's non-traditional story-telling shows how women can inspire and support others from their own tragedies in creative ways their narratives have a voice. They find it pleasurable to advocate hope shown in #FEMALE PLEASURE but there is a price to pay.
Miller states, "All five women in this film come from different religious and cultural backgrounds, yet this is not a film about religions, and certainly not about faith." Adding, "I want to show the universal, millennia-old and unfortunately still very topical structural 'demonization of the female body and her sexuality. The worldwide parallels are frightening."
Miller shares, "In almost all cultural, religious and social environments there are forms of abuse of power by men or in which men use hierarchical structures to exploit, dominate and oppress women." Miller has made several projects on these topics and finds that time and time again the appreciation of the female body doesn't have a proper place in our world, for men and women equally. Miller observes that an open discussion about what women truly want and need happens too seldom.
Miller concludes regarding her five subjects, "I hope they (all five women) can inspire girls and women all over the world to explore their own bodies, to have the courage to talk with their partners about their wishes and to stand up against religious, cultural and social dogmas who still tell them that they don't count."
All five women have an extremely different cultural, social and religious heritage but the similarities they share are daunting. Heartbreaking is a mild word to describe their experiences but in Miller's documentary you are amazed at the fortitude each woman has to be a catalyst for change. Not one of them desire pity but to have us look into what can result when women unite to conquer many forms of abuse. Miller's documentary is one of education for all.
Vithika Yadav grew up in a traditional Hindu family and was sexually harassed by a man at twelve-years of age--very common of Indian girls and women. Indian men call it "Eve teasing". Vithika experienced this again at which she despised the fact she was a woman. The lack of sexual education among young people in India kept her silent until Vithika went to University. She founded "Love Matters in Delhi with the support of Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Her program was the first Indian internet sex education project.
Doris Wagner, a devout Catholic had given her devotion to God since childhood. Doris joined the strict spiritual order 'The Work' in the Thalbach monastery holding close relations to the Vatican. Men and Women live together here but hold to rigid clothing and behavioral rules.
When sent to another place called the 'Holy City' located in Rome, her impeccable record as a devout nun did not protect her from the brutal assaults of this order's priest twenty years her senior. Doris left the order and pressed charges against her abuser but to no avail. In 2014, Doris published the book, "No Longer Myself" to encourage others abused within the Catholic Church and ecclesiastical cults.
Rokudenashinko (Megumi Ignarashi) grew up in a strict, traditional Japanese Buddhist family. These teachings taught her that female desire was not to be talked about but she was to be most passive and submissive to her husband because women can only achieve enlightenment by evolving into a male body. Our to duty, Rokudenashinko did not dare to stand up for her needs. She was made so ashamed of her body to the point where she hated it and underwent "labial trimming". A procedure she deeply regrets and she still suffers from the painful consequences. Her voice has made waves from her popular blog and famous artwork depicting the female vagina. She is currently being threatened with jail time.
Layla Hussein was born into a privileged and devout Muslim family. She was among the few girls in Somalia that were allowed to go to school. This did not protect her from the brutal operation at a very young age that would alter her womanhood forever in the name of Islam. She is now an activist fighting against the cruel practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) that takes place in over 30 countries worldwide robbing millions of girls and women of the clitoris. Since breaking her silence, Layla puts her voice to action as the founder of Hawa's Heaven and Daughters of Eve that support affected women of this brutality. In conjunction with a specialized branch of the London police unit, Project Azure, Layla tries to protect vulnerable girls since the 1986 British ruling that FGM is a criminal offense.
Deborah Feldman grew up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family in New York's, Williamsburg quarter. Her sheltered upbringing revolved around absolute devotion to God, obedience, guilt and punishment and though the secular world of New York was just across the river it seemed a world away. Deborah found solace in forbidden English books of women who were strong and independent who lived to take their destiny in their own hands. It would be years later that she would break away from her traditional life to tell her story. Deborah's autobiography Unorthodox sends shock-waves in the Jewish community. She lives with constant death treats but for many women with similar experiences, Deborah is a beacon of hope.