Synopsis & Background
Who Owns My Body? is a proposed feature length documentary. The goal is to explore political issues surrounding women’s rights to their body with a focus on black women. The idea spawned from attack campaigns against the black woman. From the “No wedding, No womb” campaign to media portrayals, black women have faced a lot of attacks. In the struggle for both racial equality and gender equality, it is the black woman who struggles the most. This film wants to explore the implications of what it means to control your body in our political climate.
This film’s intention is highlight the unique experiences of black women- a gravely marginalized group. Our country’s history has not been kind to black women. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her famous work, Their Eyes Were Watching God-that black women are the mule of the world. Black womanhood has always been in question. Almost two hundred years ago, Sojouner Truth gave her famous, Ain't I woman speech. Unfortunately, it’s still relevant today. Black womanhood is always up for debate. Black female bodies have always been up for consumption. That's evident from the 19th century exploitation of Sarah Baartman, the enslavement of the black woman, the raping of the black woman, to video models in hip hop videos and the new cultural appropriation of twerking in mainstream society.
Who Owns My Body will examine where we are with these equal rights. This film is for any woman who has ever felt she didn’t have control over her body.
Through the media’s portrayal, it is apparent the value of black women has still yet to be seen. This film wants to ensure the image and representations of black women are not only done in an exploitive manner. Feminism has become a widespread movement, but not necessarily an inclusive movement. It is important in this current political climate to stand up for all women, especially those belonging to the most vulnerable groups.
Who Owns My Body is a proposed feature length documentary. The film will be divided into three sections: body image, sexuality, and reproductive rights. The film will feature interviews with everyday women as well as scholars. It will also feature some animation and other multi-media elements.
The introduction of film will address the need for intersectionality. Intersectionality “ is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.” There will be a historical view of how mainstream feminism isn’t inclusive. White feminists have pointed out this out. Gloria Steinem is one of them. She has the now iconic photo with black feminist, Dorothy Pitts. Steinem famously remarked I learned feminism from black women. It’s been 40 years since second wave feminism; some may things have improved but there. However, black feminist are arguing that recent feminist activism such as Slut walk, Women’s march and the women’s day strike, still largely ignores women of color. As black activist work to increase media attention of black women and girls missing in the U.S, white feminists are visibly absent from the discussion.
This section of the film looks to focus on the beauty of the black woman.
In 2011, London based psychologist Dr. Kanawaza incited a media frenzy when he made comments asserting black women were scientifically less attractive. This is added to the long list of criticisms black women have had to endure about their outward appearance. How do black women deal with living up to an ideal standard of beauty that they realistically could never live up to? An ‘ideal' that describes beauty as having fair skin, long straight hair, light eyes and small, narrow facial features. We want to discuss how this affects black women both in their day to day lives and on a broader scale. This article was so explosive that ended up being a topic on the popular television show, Being Mary Jane.
The body image will address the politicizing of black hair. As recently as last year, a court ruled that a black woman could be refused employment for wearing dreadlocks. How is wearing your hair in its natural state unacceptable? This is the latest attack against black women wearing their hair in more in ethnic hairstyles. The film will offer a brief history black women straitening their natural to gain employment or social acceptance.
This film will explore colorism. Colorism is the idea that a person of lighter complexion is more attractive. Women with darker complexions are not only seen as less attractive, but often aggressive and unfriendly. These ideas are nothing new. Doll test conducted in the 1940s with black children revealed they saw they saw white dolls as good and black dolls as bad. A replica of that study was conducted in 2009 and produced similar results. That translates in the black community as lighter blacks being deemed more attractive. Another study revealed that having a lighter complexion increase your chances of being hired. This section will not explore that history but address ways to challenge these ideas in our communities.
Lastly, this segment will discuss the physique of the black women. The bodies of black women has always been treated with a grotesque fascination. While the Sarah Baartmen story is a over a hundred years old. Today, the black female body is still highly policed. One victim of frequent body shaming is tennis player, Serena Williams, often admonished for her curvaceous body. Recently, Williams posted photos in a conjunction with launched campaign to empower women to love their bodies. However, everyone wasn’t a fan of her photo-shoot and Williams was accused of reinforcing sexist ideas.
Finally, this segment will end with positive images of black women embracing their natural beauty.
This film also wants to explore how black women feel about sexuality. We want to find out how much control do women have over their sex sexuality. Why is the sexual violence of black women never discussed? Does our society at large feel women don’t have a right to say no? Does dressing a certain way, drinking too much or ‘leading someone on’ null and void rape charges? Do men feel they have a right to women’s body? And how does all of this compound with a woman’s race?
According to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint, sixty percent of Black girls have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.
The over-sexualizing of black women’s bodies leaves black girls in harms way. Often black girls are seen as older than they really are or deviants if they show in any interest in dating. Many black girls are called fast, which allows abuse to against them to go unnoticed or ignored. Despite being 13 percent of the US population, Black women and girls make up 40 percent of women being trafficked in America.
The Department of Justice estimates that for every white woman that reports her rape, at least 5 white women do not report theirs; and yet, for every African-American woman that reports her rape, at least 15 African-American women do not report theirs. Black sexual assault victims face unique challenges from not being believed, such as in the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officers who was able to get away with multiple rapes until he was caught. Even with DNA evidence, people are still calling for his release and collecting donations on his behalf. Apparently, a serial rapist is more credible than his many black victims.
The section will also explore the healthy side of sexuality. This segment will feature interviews from sexual health educators. There will be interviews from writers, bloggers and adult content creators who encourage black women to embrace their sexuality.
This section features an interview from Zane. Zane is a New York Times bestselling writer with countless books on erotica and black female sexuality. This interview has been completed.
“Reproductive Justice is an intersectional analysis that looks at reproductive health through a social justice lens. The formal definition is when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, [labor], sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives-” As defined by the reproductive justice group, SisterSong.
This section will discuss the problematic ideas about black motherhood. For decades, black mothers have been labeled welfare queens. It’s the idea that lazy, unmarried black women were having children to milk the state. I’ve heard people say of you can’t afford children don’t have them. I believed those ideas until I examined capitalism and racial politics in America. Black single mothers are likely to live in poverty. However, that is due more to racist economic climate than poor decisions.
Black women have never been afforded the opportunity to be seen as loving mothers or given the freedom to embrace motherhood. Recently, we have seen attacks against black celebrities embracing motherhood. Beyoncé performed at the Grammy’s dressed as Oshun, a Yoruba deity of fertility and love. Everyone wasn’t impressed the cultural reference and there was a widely shared think piece from the New York Post.
This section will also address, abortion and different barriers black women have to reproductive services, the high maternal death rate for black women and the history of denying black women bodily autonomy through sterilization.
This section will end with a photo collage of black mothers.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
The goal of this film to Inform, Entertain and Empower.
There is a transformative power of art. By giving a voice to a minority group, issues can be more clearly expressed. By exploring these goals, we hope to build solidarity among white and black feminists by opening up a line of communication. Men will gain insight of many struggles women face daily.
Who Owns My Body will feature performance artist, art, animations and poetry. It will be amalgamation of art forms, not unlike the work of documentary filmmaker, Marlon Riggs. The chief impetus of the film is to be informative and the goal is to do so in the most entertaining way possible.
This film is timely considering there is a need for increased minority representation in popular culture. This film will center black womanhood. It will not only explore, but discuss ways to mitigate the problems facing black women.
Distribution and Marketing Strategy
Social media has been a vital tool in the beginning stages of this film. Social media pages have been created for film with a website in the works for the upcoming months. To build interest, Snippets of the movie will be uploaded to get build audience anticipation.
We want to screen this movie at film festivals and college campuses to help facilitate some discussion.
While ideally we’d like to be picked up by a distributor, we will sell the film through online platforms such as Amazon and Itunes.
Production Time Table/ Budget
Multiple interview subjects have been recruited, so far I have completed 20 interviews with women in Chicago area and many women have expressed interest in an being interviewed or viewing the final product. The goal is to interview additional women and scholars.
The goal is to spend a month planning and two months filming.
Arnetta Randall (Writer/Director)
Randall is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign with a major in creative writing. She is the author of the book of short stories, Stereotypically Me. She has recently finished her first short film, Kismet. Who Owns My Body is her first documentary. Long-term plans include becoming a college professor dedicated to ensuring that generations of scholars continue this vital discourse in the hopes of securing a safer future for us all. You can follow on her Facebook.
Dane Shubert (Producer)
Shubert is a filmmaker in Chicago. He graduated from Emerson College with a BFA in Film Production specializing in Documentary filmmaking, and has 10 years of experience in the film production industry, including work on several documentaries.
Priscilla Small (Producer)
Small is a film school graduate from Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. She has written and directed multiple indie projects. She recently worked as a producer for CAN TV.
Julia Finder Producer
Julia is a freelancer based in Chicago. Her credentials start with a Bachelors in Business Management. She has interned at Disney and worked at several production companies.
WAYS to Help
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A great way to help this campaign is to share across various social media sites. Email anyone you think would be interested in this project where it be donating or sitting for an interview.