How Women Tell Their Stories

Source: Orwin, Anne. “Women’s Stories, Women’s Films: Integrating Women’s Studies and Film Production.” Women’s Studies Quarterly, 2002. Accessed November 15, 2016.


This article contains Anne Orwin’s findings about a class comprised of men and women who participated in a class within a collegiate film program. She begins her article by stating that women are surrounded by male story-tellers. While this may not seem like a significant issue, Orwin explains how this is detrimental to women in the field of film. In the class, female students often wrote stories whose characters were weighed down by emotions and relationships, thus rendering them unable to act on their own behalf. These stories also became romances in which love triumphs at the end. Orwin describes these stories as culturally imposed, which are more dramatic, media-driven stories about events that students themselves have not experienced. These stories are derived from the surplus of male story-tellers in film; they project these dramatic experiences on women who are then forced to try and relate to the story. This is similar to the argument that Sarah Montgomery made: women are forced to relate to powerless, victimized women, or male heroes. Neither of these culturally imposed stories or characters are very relatable to actual women.

Not only do women not relate to “women’s” stories, but neither do men. In the class she was studying, Orwin noted that men rarely related to women’s stories because they lacked conflict. The theory of drama from Aristotle involves conflict, so women’s stories are seen as unfinished because they avoid conflict. This, however, is a reflection of normative gender behavior; women are socialized to not be confrontational, and to maintain a pleasant disposition. Due to the lack of conflict in women’s stories, men found them un-relatable and unfinished.

Near the end of her article, Orwin described an interesting finding. She writes, “Because students of both genders often view anything feminist as also anti-male, a significant effort was made to focus the class on the positives of women’s films while avoiding the negatives of male images of women.” This is a common view today; the worst stereotypes describe feminists as man-hating killjoys. It is also commonly seen that some men do not receive criticism well, as seen by the popular Twitter hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile. So in order to make progress in the world of film, Orwin found that it was best to praise women’s films for how they portrayed women well while ignoring the faults men made in depicting women.



One thought on “How Women Tell Their Stories

  1. This is really interesting. It is tough to know what to do in order to achieve progress. This entry reminds me of various times we’ve talked about when women had to negotiate with men or focus on feminine attributes or how something was going to benefit men in order to achieve particular goals. I disagree with the avoidance of critiquing how men portray women in media, although I see how it might help women in film get somewhere faster. This does highlight the need that people on all ends of every spectrum need to speak about concerns in constructive rather than demeaning ways.


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