Kiva Reardon’s resume is an impressive one: She’s a film critic, the founding editor of the feminist film journal cléo, a Programming Associate for the Toronto International Film Festival and the co-host of one of TIFF’s own podcasts. She’s got bylines at publications as diverse and impressive as The A.V. Club, The Hairpin, The Globe and Mail and The National Post. She’s an accomplished and skilled writer and critic, but as she explains in a new piece entitled “2016’s Need for Female Film Critics,” such easily measurable achievements don’t necessarily come with an equal level of professional respect.
“Here are the positions people assume I hold when I meet them at film festivals: personal assistant, girlfriend, publicist,” Reardon writes in the striking opening paragraph of her piece. “Sometimes, if I’m dressed well and have slept, I might get asked if I’m an actor. If I’m standing at the back of a room alone trying to take a breather, an event planner. I’ve sat down at dinner tables only to be passed over for an introduction. I’ve been in meetings where it’s assumed I’m there to take notes.”
She continues, “It’s an eerie feeling of going from invisible to visible, and deeply upsetting to feel like you can’t control that powerful process yourself. I’ve always been taught that I can walk into any room and own it. But the reality is, my gender talks first in male-dominated circles — and I say that with the immense amount of privilege that comes with being a white, straight, economically privileged, cisgender person.”
The new feature appears over at TIFF’s own blog The Review, and Reardon uses it to cannily address — using both her own experiences and those from a variety of other voices — film criticism’s lack of female representation (a continuing issue) and how best to change a male-dominated profession, including three primary points of interest and action: “dismantling the film canon, examining the media landscape, and questioning authority — especially when it comes to who is thought to have it and who even has access to gaining it.”
Reardon’s feature also looks at some of the more insidious issues that plague female writers and critics, including editors who employ women, only to relegate them to certain “beats” (read: writing only about women or people of color), along with the often disheartening influence of social media on writers. It’s a sharp, smart look at a perennial problem.
It’s also one that actually offers solutions.
The lack of female representation may not be not a new story, but it’s one that is in desperate need of, in the words of one of Reardon’s subjects, writer and critic Angelica Bastién, “a major reawakening.” Reawakenings and reworkings like that require discussions, including tough ones, and a close examination of the biases (unconscious or not) that so often appear within film criticism’s loftiest circles.
And that’s hardly the half of it: Read all of Reardon’s piece right here.