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Use Movies to Foster Gender Equity

Use Movies to Foster Gender Equity

It’s a little too chilly outside for April! In fact that’s an understatement. On days like this it’s nice to stay inside. On nights like this it’s great to have a home, some warm food, and a good movie to share. But, not just any movie.

I’d like to suggest some movies that have strong female role models. When girls and women play a leading role in the plot it sends a positive message to survivors, our new partners, and our own children that women are strong, capable, intelligent individuals who make valuable contributions to every aspect of life.

The movies that I’m about to suggest help move us closer to breaking the stereotypes and creating more equitable images of women. Let’s start with movies that are all suitable for young children, teens and adults to share.

The Whale Rider (2002) is a beautiful story filmed in New Zealand. We’re introduced to Paikea, a 12 year old Maori girl who lives with her paternal grandparents. Paikea’s mother died in childbirth causing her father so much grief that he exiled himself to Germany to work as an artist. The leader of the village known as the Whale Rider has always been a direct patrilineal descendent of Paikea’s family. Without a grandson to train for the role of leader, Paikea’s grandfather becomes fatalistic regarding the survival of their village. When Paikea shows interest in learning the traditions that historically have been reserved for the boys in the village her grandfather does not take it well, but when she out manoeuvers the boys then that’s too much for him to bear. A wonderful ending with strong portrayals from Paikea and her grandmother.

The Book Thief (2013) is a wonderful account of life as a child in Germany during the Second World War. With Death as the narrator this movie weaves together many life stories. Nine year old Liesel is the thread that binds them all together. When Liesel’s mother can no longer care for her she is brought to live with an older childless couple in a small village. The year is 1939. It’s soon discover that Liesel is unable to read and she becomes the target of the school bully. Fortunately, Liesel has other talents and can take care of herself. Eventually, with the help of her new father Liesel learns to read. When her family hides a young Jewish man in their cellar Liesel reads to him during the worst nights of his life and helps him return to the world of the living. A story with many twists and turns but the constant is the strength of Liesel and her new mother.

Tracks (2013) is a film based on the true story of Robyn Davidson who set out on a 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and her loyal dog. On her journey of self-discovery she encounters National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan who helps document her journey in pictures as well as checking on Robyn periodically to ensure that she’s safe and has enough water.

Fly Away Home (1996) is a film loosely base and adapted from the story of Bill Lishman who successfully trained Canada geese to follow his ultralight aircraft to North Carolina. Fly Away Home is about 14 year old Amy who must leave New Zealand for Ontario where she’s to live with her estranged father after her mother’s sudden death. Amy soon becomes a mother herself when a brood of Canada geese chicks imprint on her. Strong willed Amy and her father realize that the survival of these birds depends on teaching them a migration route from Ontario to North Carolina. The solution, Amy will pilot an ultralight aircraft to guide the birds to their winter home.

A League of Their Own (1992) is the fictional account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. When the Major League Baseball is threatened due to a shortage of male players thanks to World War II, the corporate barons backing the league reluctantly agree to create a women’s league. 56 young women are recruited and divided among four teams known as the Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets, South Bend Blue Sox, and Rockford Peaches -- the main focus of the movie. Needless to say, in a male dominated sport such as baseball, backed by white corporate males, the women and their league have many hurdles to overcome, including societal expectations of the day, in order to establish themselves as true athletes.

In my next installment I’ll give you a review of movies suitable for teens and young adults. Till then, stay warm, stay healthy and keep working toward gender equity.


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