What fascinated us most in the film were things we didn’t even want to discuss. We didn’t think about them, they just popped up. Our female speakers spoke of love for their profession and the pleasure they take in their work, and this had nothing to do with the neoliberal pursuit of success based on the criteria of profit and promoting constant, ill-judged increases in productivity. We were surprised, inspired and over and over thrilled by their attitude toward the successes and problems they were confronted with. They are all successful, they do what they want, and yet they are humble – as if their ego was pushed completely aside while their core was filled with calm, focus, gratification, perseverance, generosity, a desire to discover ever new skills and experience, a tendency to connect with others: what is called ‘flow’ in the film. The obstacles they faced on their way are often related to the system of discrimination, discreditation of women who work in technical professions. But they don’t let the problems disrupt the flow, they reject them with irony and humor. Their irony doesn’t stem from the ‘tradition’ of poor jokes but quite the contrary: they learned how to react when you are left with your back to the wall and discredited by gender, what to do when discrimination is systemic and thus the natural state of things. How to draw attention to the situation so that the harasser and the environment actually understand our distress? At the same time, we wanted to demonstrate that discrimination takes a high psychological toll because the victim who doesn’t want to be that feels vulnerable, exposed, attacked, has the sense of one in front of a white wall facing death by firing squad. This is how our speakers are presented. Verbal discrimination is a distinctively violent act that most often makes the victim freeze. In our society, people are not taught how to react to discrimination in a mature and sagacious manner. Anybody exposed to discrimination should be informed regarding legal tools that provide protection against such attacks. The film shows that connections and solidarity with other women in similar situations is particularly important in moments of seclusion. Our speakers act as a team, they connect, share their experiences,know-how and scientific findings freely. They have built protection against hostile environments by establishing safe spaces where their views are not ignored beforehand and they can act as equals.
The film also communicates our, possibly mostly our, view because the statements were carefully selected and interrelated. In a way, the selection was to a certain extent made before the conversation because each speaker was asked five topical questions that evolved in the post-production into seven topics under seven chapters: flow, technology, women, relations, profession, work, pleasure. We were continually surprised that women of different generations came to very similar conclusions and practical solutions to improve their situation. Last but not least, our speakers were carefully selected, taking into consideration generational diversity, diversity of technical professions and education.We also find a clearly expressed feminist perspective very important. At times we feared that certain points might contradict this perspective. Hence, we chose to dismiss a good statement rather than have it interpreted ambiguously that it might possibly support and promote stereotypes.
Did we talk to successful women? “This is a complex question.” If the speakers had been asked about their material status, many would say it’s not a bed of roses because they are confronted with precarious existence in the poorly regulated labor market. Success is an abused notion imbued with capitalist values. Instead of successful women, we prefer talking about women who take pleasure in their profession despite all systemic problems. We do bear in mind that pleasure can also have a capitalist connotation. Initially we feared that the film might play into the hands of systematic exploitation of people in ‘inspirational’ professions. (Following the logic: “Performing the profession you like should be good enough without asking for equal salary, annual leave, sick leave, spare time or private life.”) In the words of one of our speakers, pleasure in work which doesn’t consider the look “out, into nature” is not pleasure but coercion disguised in the catchwords of social affirmation. The logic of ambition that strives for success as it is measured in the capitalist society is phallic. In the film, a different idea of success has been proposed, that which doesn’t follow the pyramidal logic of exclusiveness, being the best, most visible, most resounding and such. Our speakers don’t need academic titles, executive positions – although some enjoy them. The principal question about success is: “What do you do in your life to be a fulfilled and satisfied being?”
We did well as a team of directors. We believe that the decision for a collective direction approach is also a feminist move. We noticed in the pre-production that all papers to be filled were extremely individual in form. The bureaucratic apparatus providing funding is totally void of any idea of interdisciplinary or team work. Film direction is defined as distinctively individual work executed by a single genius on the top of a pyramid. This is precisely the logic we wanted to avoid. Simultaneously, the reason behind interdisciplinary work and integration of several roles in one person was also preconditioned by the production means. This could be considered a guerrilla film because it has been realised with minimum funds, our own technical equipment in one kitchen and one bedroom and occasionally in a hacker laboratory.
Our view is also reflected in the images and the selection of shots that voice our comments, agreeing, complementing what was said, continuation of a thought, concerns. The post-production raised many questions that go beyond the scope of this film and yet are directly related to it. The idea of women programmers is presented very affirmative and we all agree on it, though we are simultaneously aware that the promotion of women in computing has its dark side in light of the history of women inclusion in ‘male’ professions. During WWII women in the west and in the USA didn’t get jobs in factories because of society’s ‘enlightenment’, but simply due to the shortage of labor and because factories were able to get away with paying them considerably less than men. The executive positions were of course occupied by men. In the former Yugoslavia, which enforced the equality of women and adopted basic laws that provide women equality in terms of employment to this day (right to maternity leave, abortion, basic and systematic healthcare)*, the integration of women in the production was more a necessity than a choice. Yet a large deficiency projected in the computer labor force in the EU by 2020 (up to 80,000 vacancies) makes us wonder whether the highly welcomed promotion of women is truly a sign of emancipation or just another form of exploitative employments.
Through the development of the film, its overall content and its images, we discovered that the relation labour-gender is extremely complex, not simply a question of will and job performance. The film reveals the relations of inequality and discrimination at several levels which are often undisclosed to the subject experiencing them. Moreover, we realised that there’s a lot more to tell and thus more films need to be made.
[The statement was first published in the City of Women XXII catalogue.]