Jill Soloway is kind of my hero right now. At Geena Davis’s Bentonville Film Festival last week in Utah, Soloway took part in a panel discussion about the fight for gender equity in Hollywood hosted by Jessica Williams. The topics ranged from the industry’s pay gap to the challenges of self-care to the use of rape in film. Soloway, the creator “Transparent,” had a lot to say about using rape as a plot device–and I’m so glad she did, because it’s really about time someone stood up for us survivors.
She discussed how it’s problematic that many male-directed TV series or movies use rape as a plot device, stating:
“I would like to make a blanket ask to cis men to please stop making movies about rape, stop portraying rape. We get it, guys. You want us to stay inside because you want us to be afraid we’re going to get raped. We get it! Stop making movies and TV shows about rape. Let women make those movies if they want to.”
When Soloway was asked why she thinks rape is so prominent in male-created media, she brought up the most recent rape controversy surrounding director Paul Verhoeven’s film “Elle”:
“I’m gonna get really deep. We’re gonna talk about Paul Verhoeven for a second. I actually believe they envy our vaginas and our vulnerability, and so they project their desire for their own vulnerability onto women, and then they make films about raping them to be able to experience the feeling of the being-done-to, letting go, which they can’t do as straight men. They have to do the done-to; laminated onto cis male heterosexuality is ‘I do to’ and so they project the ‘done-to’ onto women. They project the ‘done-to’ onto queer people, and they make movies about rape so they can be in the feeling of being ‘done-to’ against their will, which I think is actually their fantasy. And I just want them to stop projecting onto our bodies everything. Kinda deep.”
Williams aptly replied, “Yeah, we went there, girl,” to which Soloway said, “I went there.” Love it. Yes, we do need to go there. It’s important for real life survivors to explore what rape is in television and film, because how can you portray something accurately if you’ve never experienced it from that perspective?
As a survivor myself, I can’t agree with Soloway more–it’s offensive to watch a cis-male dude perpetuate the same stereotypes, a strange sense of violence, and fetishization of rape. It’s also appropriative because it’s falsely latching onto to someone else’s narrative for your own gain–which is never acceptable.
This is not to say men do not also experience rape, because they do, but they could be putting it in a male perspective–which is clearly not being done. It’s as if female survivors need to be spoken for, as if they can’t speak for themselves. And that’s not OK. We need our art and entertainment to be authentic and sincere–just because something is supposed to be entertaining (like “Game of Thrones,” for instance) doesn’t mean the emotions and cultural commentary behind it should also be simulated.