Jake Richardson 1 November 2018

Women Leaders, Myths and Nationhood


How many elected female national presidents and prime ministers in modern history can you name? There may be more than you may know, and it’s important to be aware of the progress that has been made. The following four films present a range of perspectives on the many female leaders and their place in both our history and present day. They’ve done much more than they have been given credit for -- which is part of the problem. If you watch these films you will be doing the world a service, and, if you want to do more, share them online with everyone you know. The last film is less about women in leadership roles than what constitutes the leading myths in a national culture. Who controls the myth making wields a great power potentially, which is one reason why it’s important for women to tell their own stories, and not allow themselves to be edited out of history.

Rethinking the Past, Present and Future of Women + Power (Directed by Tiffany Shlain)

Tiffany Shlain’s chance encounter with a woman who has been working with female leaders for about 20 years leaves her in shock when she learns there have been about 50 women in positions of the highest power across the world. She asks dozens of people if they know how many there have been, but no one is even close -- and many far underestimate the total. Shlain didn’t know either, but considers herself of a feminist. By investigating history, she observes that 10,000 years ago, there was a much more balanced approach to gender within human societies. Shlain next mines history for example of women at their most powerful. Boudicca, for example, led the Britains against occupying Romans in around 60 AD. Hatshepsut was an Egyptian woman who was also a pharaoh from 1473 to 1458 B.C. Shlain digs further and presents many more insights about the roles of women have played in various societies for centuries. Tragically, they were, and still are, subject to violence because of discrimination. This short documentary is very much worthy of at least one viewing -- it could expand many minds.

Go Go Giwas - Episode 1 (Directed by Yi Feng Kao)

A short film about a girl who wants to become the chief of her village, this animation uses beautiful, colorful imagery and a dynamic soundtrack to present a very compelling story. Giwas appears to be about 11 but even at this young age she isn’t interested in the traditional female duties like cooking. She is much happier when she is practicing archery or outdoors. Though the film is less than 5 minutes long it is very engaging as it depicts the age-old issue of gender discrimination. (There’s also a cute monkey, which doesn’t hurt.) This film would be very helpful to use as a discussion starter for young children on the topic of sexism.

I Was Just Thinking Too Small (Directed by Ian Harmarine)

Robin Guenther is an architect and expert in green healthcare design. Some of her ideas are presented and described in this short documentary. Healthcare doesn’t stop in hospitals or other medical facilities. It’s in community gardens, families, in our intentions, inventions and sustainable approaches to living. Guenther is a leader with her vision of how health is interconnected to many aspects of life we might not usually consider.

In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain (Directed by Larissa Sansour & Søren Lind)

This short science-fiction film employs futuristic transportation, landscapes, a philosophical dialogue, and mechanical human characters to explore a most insightful premise: that culture and nationhood could be manufactured from counterfeit physical artifacts combined with myths. If fake objects which appear to be of cultural value can be buried for a sufficient length of time to be assumed real, and stories about a particular people who supposedly used them can be produced, perhaps these simple efforts can reach the status of nationhood. If this premise is correct, the authenticity and significance of existing nations must be questionable. 

About the author

Jake Richardson has enjoyed the outdoors and nature since he was 6-years-old in the woods of central Illinois and now lives in California not far from the John Muir house.

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