Documentary • Katharina Mückstein • Austria (2023) • 96 min.
October 15, 2023 • 18h • Programme Section – Back to Basics
“Feminism WTF” is an Austrian documentary film from 2023 created, written, directed, and produced by Katharina Mückstein (born in 1982), an award-winning Austrian screenwriter, director, and producer. She is the recipient of the Vienna Women’s Prise for Best Director in 2023 for this film. Katharina Mückstein is an activist fighting for equality and the promotion of women in the film industry in Austria, as well as against sexism and sexual harassment. The film “Feminism WTF” addresses current issues related to equality and has won several awards, being declared the fourth most-watched Austrian film in 2023.
“Feminism is the single most successful social movement of our time.”
The film addresses numerous current topics of feminism as a political movement, whose general aim is achieving equal economic, legal, and social status for women and all marginalised groups in society. The author of this film, through a dialogue-driven approach, delves into themes ranging from gender and sexuality, violence, skin colour and class, to sexual identities, toxic masculinity, and privilege. “Feminism WTF” offers much more than common knowledge about feminism – it provides a broad view of reality with all current issues and hints at the kind of future that awaits us. Considering that feminism is not only a social movement but also a science, ideology, activism, and a way of life, the film shares personal stories, sincere and sometimes painful, and show how these stories resonate in today’s political reality.
Experts from the humanities, social and natural sciences from the German-speaking region, each from their respective discipline – including sociology, postcolonial studies, biology, linguistics, political science, technology, education, masculinity studies, gender studies, queer studies, and trans studies – discuss all important feminist topics of today in the film. The film features sociologists Paula Villa Braslavsky, Astrid Biele Mefebue, and Laura Wiesböck, gender experts Franziska Schutzbach and Maisha Aume, political scientist Nikita Dhawan, sexologist Rona Torenz, masculinity researcher and founder of the Detox Masculinity Institute Christoph May, biologist Sigrid Schmitz, social educator Emilene Wopana Mudimu, and transgender issues expert Persson Perry Baumgartinger.
“Capitalism was globalised through colonialism… The industrialisation of Europe would have been impossible without colonialism… Slavery played a very important role for colonial economy, because slaves provided unpaid work force and Black women were the property of white men.” (Nikita Dhawan)
In response to the author’s comment that few white people in Europe today show any interest in the history of European colonialism and therefore do not know how much this problem is present today and how it is related to race and gender relations, Nikita Dhawan begins her brief lesson on this topic with the sentence: “There was a time when Europe had colonised 85% of the planet. And there were a lot of narratives to justify this.” She further explains the direct consequences still present today of stereotypical narratives that Europeans are enlightened, cultured, and articulate, while people from Africa or Asia are primitive, immature barbarians, and what happens when these narratives intersect with gender, class, or homosexuality through the lens of migration.
“Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”
The film also depicts an exercise that questions privileges based on skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, etc. When the following statement applies to you, take a step forward at the end vividly demonstrating how far each person can go if they don’t conform to what society expects them to be. Many questions explained by experts in the film through feminist theory show what this means in practice.
Throughout the film, we hear voices from current debates and get answers to questions like why only two genders and two sexes are always discussed, why women perform the majority of unpaid household and care work for children and elderly, why capitalism and feminism are in conflict, how feminism can save the environment, ecology, and climate, why there are still few men dedicated to feminism, and ultimately – why feminist struggle without intersectionality is impossible, and how we can individually contribute to a fair distribution of resources and power, and what needs to be done to build our society on solidarity.
Between interviews and thematic segments, the author inserted video sequences which are essentially dance performances by queer performers to electro music themes by Tony Renaissance. These dance sequences deconstruct familiar and common images from pop culture and create new, non-binary images of gender and body. The film director herself envisioned this film as an entertaining pop film, “that shows that feminism can be the opposite of anti-pleasure and boredom,” which is one of the stereotypes long associated with feminism. The colour scheme of the film was carefully chosen, paying particular attention to the colours of the set for each speaker, resulting in a visually harmonious and striking film. The author, along with her interlocutors, succeeded in creating a film that is equally engaging for those familiar with feminist theory and its current topics, as well as for those not particularly interested in feminism and who know little or nothing about it.
The film ends with a question posed by the author to each of her interlocutors, carrying a utopian tone: “What will the world look like in 100 years?” The answers, whether pessimistic or optimistic, speak of freedom, a life without violence, the right to choice, equal opportunities, solidarity, fair resource distribution, care, acceptance, and love.