Geisha girls are strapped in straightjackets, handcuffed, bound and muzzled. They are the fashion victims of the supermodel sorority.
Cloning and gender engineering is the business of Fashion Network.
Designer Alex presents his sales pitch at the launch of his latest product on the market: the millennium woman.
The essence of the Couture woman is contradiction: She says no but she means yes, you want her but you hate her, she’ll love you, but who knows what she’ll do with you.”
In the background, the four women, silent and restrained, teeter in their high heels.
Prozac, Cosmopolitan, Gucci, spray-on window cleaners, Audi TT, Wonderbra, satellite television, microwave meals, Britney Spears, anti-wrinkle miracle creams, DIY spiritual, cellulite, emotional healing - R99.99. You’re watching WOMAN TODAY - stay tuned!
MNet’s EDIT 2001 film competition is a fantastic opportunity for emerging filmmakers to make short films that explore new media possibilities and which push the boundaries of filmmaking. The competition aims to encourage future media makers to indulge in the adventurous avant-garde and innovative, to take film into the unknown, into the future. As one of the ten national finalists selected to participate in the competition, we were given the funding and freedom to create a fifteen-minute film that would reflect our vision and politics.
As feminists and emerging filmmakers, we wanted to create something that would be stylistically innovative and which would illustrate some of the oppression and containment that women face in South African society.
Ms.Fits is the illegitimate progeny of UND feminists, filmmakers and friends.
The film takes the idea of a ‘Natural Woman’ and turns it on its head. The theme of female deviancy is played out in the narratives of four ordinary women, who discover that the gender roles that they are expected to play, were not made to fit them. They reject the narrow confines of their socially constructed gender identities, and in this way become ‘misfits’.
The first of the four stories involves a black domestic worker who is unable to raise her own children, because the lack of child support and infrastructure forces her to work far away from her family in a suburban home, where she runs the household and cares for the children of her employer, a white working mother. This story reflects the ways in which our social and economic systems, oppress the mothers of our nation, where childrearing is often the task and financial responsibility of women only. This narrative is important because it highlights the fact that not all women are oppressed equally, and women are often simultaneously oppressors and the oppressed. The white working mother can only cope with the help of another woman who raises her children on her behalf, but the domestic worker in turn needs someone else to raise her children. A hierarchy of women is constructed, with each of us standing on the back of one of our sisters. This story was researched and written with the assistance of domestic worker, Thandezile Mgubane.
The second narrative that unfolds is that of a Muslim woman who rejects the paternalistic social traditions of the conservative Muslim community. The story is loosely based on the Islam Radio and Gender Commission Constitutional Court Clash of 1997, where Islam Radio failed to fulfil its Independent Broadcast Authority mandate of gender representation quotas on the air and in the radio station management. The story then tells of a Muslim woman who hijacks a Muslim radio talk show and speaks out against some of the traditions that oppress and contain Muslim women. This story was researched and written with the assistance of Radio Lotus DJ, Raeesa Mohammed Malek.
The third story is of a white woman in psychotherapy. Her journey is taken towards reclaiming the memory of her ‘deviant’ mother and a process of reclaiming her inheritance: a sense of herself as a ‘natural woman’ with agency and pride of her body and womanness. Her eventual rejection of psychotherapy along with its Freudian notions of penis envy and history of notions such as female hysteria, is also a rejection of the notion that female anxiety is rooted in the maladjustment of the individual woman to society, rather than the maladjustment of society to women. She crosses the boundary from territory where she is object of (an)other’s construct of reality, into a space where she is the author of her reality.
The fourth story is of a cabaret singer who sings the song of her oppression as the object of the male gaze. She sings “you make me feel so cheap,” but her male audience fails to hear her. They see what they want to see, and her singing is drowned out by the sound of their whistles. This story is the story of rape, of men who think that when women say “no” they mean yes, of the rape survivor who is asked what she was wearing, of women as commodity and object of male desire.
The four stories unfold in three narrative cycles, showing the dawning of their awareness on their journeys towards liberation.
As the women become more ‘natural’ by becoming aware of their situations and responding with greater agency and consciousness towards their oppression, they simultaneously become more ‘deviant,’ in terms of socially constructed expectations of their behaviour and gender identities.
A chorus intersperses the four stories. The chorus reflects the collective status of women more generally. The individual women rebel in various ways that are relevant to the specific forms of oppression and containment that affect them, are finally contained for their rebellion, straightjacketed and led away by a man in a white coat. At this point, the chorus rises up in rebellion to this cycle of containment, in the final scene where they burn the white coat, which throughout the film has been worn by the agents of the women’s oppression. The heat of the fire melts the chorus’ geisha make-up from their faces in a scene of ritualistic cleansing and renewal. Beneath the masks of male-constructed feminine identity, the four women whose stories have been told, are revealed as ‘natural’ women with multiple and mutable gender identities.
Filming Began 31 August 2001 and the film will be flighted on MNet in December 2001.
Executive Producer: Keyan G Tomasellli
Producer & Director: Sacha Stokes
Screenwriters: Candice Pankhurst & Sacha Stokes
Researchers: Thandezile Mgubane & Raeesa Mohammed Malek
Art Director: Mark Mckeown
Cameramen: Mike Hatcher, Tim, Allen
Wardrobe Designers: Melissa Baskin & Colette Palin
Make-up Artist: Pia
Song Writer: Shannon
Lighting: Shawn Watts, Jeremy Martin
Sound Engineer: Stewart Heslop
Boom Swingers: Lloyd Edy, Simon Seabela &
Technical Advisor: Andreas
Set Photographer: Alexandra
Craft: Claire Leech
Editor: Sacha Stokes
Assistant Editor: Caryn McKay
Sound Design: Athol Weselink
Final Mix: Grant Danré
Publicist: Candice Pankhurst
Web Site Design: Mike Hatcher & Candice Pankhurst
Performers: Ruth Maggie Thipe, Andaleeb Khan, Tamar Meskin, Paidamoyo Tazvishaya, Ben Voss, Co van Doorn, Sfiso Ngcobo, Afzal Khan, Maiya Minkova, Jacqueline Hessenaur, Sihle Mgubane, Johan Ploos van Amstel, Thirosha Naidoo, Maggie, Fahim Jamadar, Sumayya Kahn, Pearl Lathuli, Kim van den Berg
Thanks to: UND Graduate Programme in Cultural & Media Studies, Drama & Performance Studies Department, Audio Visual Centre (UND), P4 Radio, Haircraft, Anthony Collins, David & Joanne King, Thandezile Mgubane, Westville Boys’ High School, The Winston Pub, Technicon of Natal Drama, Design and Video Technology Departments, NTVA, Caryn McKay
Credits may prove to be incorrect or incomplete, as filming is still in progress