Dedicated to increasing roles for women, non-binary and transgender people in film, the UO Womxn and Film club centers around one common but significant theme: positive representation of marginalized groups. It’s a mission that many of the club’s members hope to carry into their future careers.
"There's nothing like the pain of seeing somebody that looks like you only to be displayed as a criminal with the same name that they use for every other Hispanic," said Alexandra Ramos, Vice President of UO Womxn and Film and a third-year cinema studies and advertising student. "But then there's also something extremely comforting and exhilarating about seeing a superhero that looks like you and thinking, ‘Maybe I am worth something.’"
Other members also highlighted the impact that representation has on marginalized groups. The club allows them to teach others and themselves to avoid reinforcing racial stereotypes and to center the voices of underrepresented communities.
The club holds educational activities such as rewriting problematic scenes in television and film and holding trivia nights regarding ableism, infamous stereotypes and other significant topics. This educational and entertaining approach has helped the club with the heavy task of bringing representation into the film industry and creating films that are meant for everybody to see, Public Relations Coordinator Grace Reichardt said.
President Emma Gersho, who joined as a first-year when UO Womxn and Film was established in 2018, said that the club has grown over the years to become more inclusive.
"I wanted to get involved and find a community that I could be a part of without judgment, which the club provided for me. We've grown a lot since then, but our mission statement has remained the same," she said, referring to the significance of diversity and accurate portrayals of minority groups in film.
The club teaches members valuable skills such as pitching film ideas, camerawork and networking. However, members agreed that the industry itself has made minimal progress in allowing women to utilize these skills and shining a light on stories from and by LGBTQ+ and Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities.
Gersho said LGBTQ+ films often stress “coming out” as the main focal point of the film, rather than letting the characters live ordinary lives. "It's telling only one part of their story," and the fetishization of marginalized communities leads to misrepresentation and false perceptions of their identity, she said.
"The year is 2021," Ramos said. "These groups didn't appear yesterday or 20 years ago, they've been a part of all of human history."
Members also mentioned notable classes at UO that have opened their eyes to various genres and films. "Comparative World Cinema, where the chosen topic was mermaids, was definitely one of the best classes," Reichardt said. "There's also the History of the Motion Picture three-part series, and Cinema and Power which was specifically about the issues we emphasize here."
Ramos said Exploitation Cinema showcased a new meaning to sex being displayed on screen. The class also covered other important concepts such as identity and diversity that make films meaningful to a broader audience.
Nonetheless, there's still much left out of the picture, Gersho said. "It's always White directors who tell these stories, but they need to get expertise from individuals who experienced these stories,” she said. “You can't tell a story that's not your own unless you do it right and talk to those people."
Poor representation in film causes people to pick up on these perceptions of their identity at a young age and alienate themselves, Reichardt said. Having media become more inclusive would allow unheard individuals to feel acknowledged and not internalize Eurocentric views.
While the club continues to emphasize diversity and representation in film to its audience, Ramos said how essential it is for the club’s peers to see the club and women themselves as real filmmakers who will contribute to change in the industry.
"You don't have to be a specific identity to join," Ramos said. "There can never be too many people working against these issues."
The UO Womxn and Film club meets Tuesdays on even-numbered weeks at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit the club’s Instagram @uowomxnfilm.