Chicks Chat with Vanessa Pellegrin

Vanessa Pellegrin, initially began her career as a journalist, specializing in investigative reporting, current affairs and sociological issues in Morocco. Her adventures have taken her to London via Spain and into Film production. She is now a highly regarded filmmaker, who’s latest film is entitled “ The Trouble with the F Word’. A documentary about feminism and anti feminism in the Modern age. The film asks the question ‘What is wrong with the Feminist label?’ We at Those London Chicks were so excited to find out about the film and her views on the ‘F’ word.

You started out as an investigative journalist in Morocco what was the journey that bought you to this point as a film maker in London?

That will be probably too long to explain, but I would say that making documentaries was a natural transition to me from journalism. I felt a bit limited just by writing in the press, so I thought exposing social issues via filmmaking was better. London was the right place at the right time to for me achieve this life change.

In September 2014 Actress Emma Watson said “Feminism” became an unpopular word and how she is trying to tackle the preconceived ideas about feminism. What are your thoughts on her speech and what she is trying to achieve?

‘He for she’ is a very interesting campaign as for the first time in decades, we hear about men and women being unified to achieve gender equality, in the mainstream media. Indeed, in the western world, until now, gender issues were mainly focused on women’s issues and weren’t tackling the fact that men are also pressured by stereotypes. It is a new approach to the problems faced by both genders but mainly, it is a great communication campaign: men are no longer feeling left apart from the battle to reach gender equality. It is not presented as a battle of the sexes and I am sure that is the reason why it has so much success worldwide. Now again, some people would argue that it is a disguised campaign to promote a ‘men hating’ movement because it is called ‘he for she’’ and not ‘he and she’. These people think men have to change to ‘please’ women and therefore, this campaign doesn’t focus on their own issues. It is impressive to see so many men and women in the UK and the US who think Feminism is a trap and isn’t the right movement to reach gender equality.


Tell us about the premise of the film?

In 2013, it was the 100th anniversary of Emily Davison’s death, one of the main suffragettes who fort for women’s right to vote in the UK and we asked ourselves, my executive producer Beverley Morisson and I, what were the issues of women today in this country. Quickly we came across several polls about feminism and we were very surprised to see that 1/5 of Americans identify as feminists and that 37% of them considered feminism as a negative word. In the UK, it was almost the same result: 36% of British adults define themselves as feminists yet 76% support gender equality. This statement clearly shows that there is a problem with feminism, now we are trying to identify if it is just about the label or the ideology.

What inspired you to come up with such an innovative approach that deals with this much maligned issue?

We found Lucy Anne Holmes from No More page 3 and Nick Lancaster from Sky Sports and they agreed to take a challenge: swapping their point of views and canvas for different sides of their beliefs in order to investigate the trouble with the F word. The different ‘debates’ and hashtags on social media were already exposing the view points of pro and anti feminists, but most of the time, both blame each other to be ignorant. Also, there are more comments, bullies and threats than debate. So we thought, what about if those people had a chance to properly dig into the side of their ‘enemy’? I thought it was the best way to expose truths and facts from both sides without being biased.

How did you get funding for the film?

We mainly pitched our idea to private investors that are supporting us for this initiative, but we are still looking for extra funding. We will certainly launch a kickstarters campaign anytime soon on our facebook (the trouble with the F word) and twitter @Fwordfilm so please follow us!

Do you still think that when the word “Feminist” appears or is mentioned there is still a stereotypical vision “ of a man hating, unattractive, hairy, vegetarian, Dr Martins boots wearing lesbian”?

Yes indeed. This film has also the aim to find out were these stereotypes are coming from and where is the true part and the false one.

What does Feminism mean to you?

I will stick to its definition: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. Feminism clearly means that gender equality hasn’t been reached yet. Worldwide, it would be difficult to claim that men are women are equal by law. In the UK and the US that is the case, but inequalities are still very present so the question is: is Modern feminism the right movement to tackle those inequalities?

Ashton Kutcher has just said “you never find baby changing facilities in male washrooms”…or Actor Terry Crews’s recent interview for feminist magazine ‘Dame’ where he say’s he’s proud to be a feminist and having a wife and daughters have made him aware for the need for female equality. How important do you feel the positive male ‘voice’ is, in terms of the wider debate and why?

feminist_definition_necklaceIt is key than men support the idea of gender equality. Indeed, a lot of antifeminist men we interviewed aren’t against this idea at all, but they feel feminism is not the right movement to reach this goal. The reason of that is because they feel that feminism exposes them as an oppressive gender. Others, such as the actors you mentioned consider feminism is a real movement for gender equality. They blame the society to be unfair towards some people and ask for change.


Do you have faith that, at some point, this will be an antiquated debate/struggle?

I think it will. The good news, in the western world is that very few people consider men and women shouldn’t be equal, it is a progress but still there is a long a way to go. Now it is about to put in place this equality in all the public spheres. How do we do that? We will discover that in the documentary.

What’s next for you?

Lot more projects, but can’t tell much more now. The important thing at the moment is to show this piece of work to people as I am sure they will be really interested to find out more about a society debate that has been on going for years.

Thank you Vanessa

Interview by Karen Bryson xx

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