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Raising Awareness, One Vagina at a Time.

December 12, 2013

• Zoé Salicrup Junco

"Zoé Salicrup Junco (left) directs lead actress Dalia Davi (right)"

Hello there. My name is Zoé Salicrup Junco. I’m a film director in-the-making, but more importantly, I’m a woman in-the-making. I have a funny feeling that both the former and especially the latter will be never-ending journeys... Hit me up if that’s not the case.

A couple of years ago, I wrote and directed a short film called GABI about women, sexuality, and my native island of Puerto Rico. Fortunately, the film had a great run in the 2012 and 2013 film festival circuit, having its international premiere at Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, and its USA premiere at Tribeca Film Festival. Most recently, the short film joined the Seed&Spark family, as it was invited to screen in Christine Davila’s curated channel “Más American.” And at this very moment, I’m finishing up the feature-length script version of GABI.

The main concept behind both the short and the feature screenplays is to present a mid-thirties woman, who’s independent, financially stable, and is not in a hurry to settle down with a family. Oh, and she happens to enjoy sex openly (as in she’s not afraid to hide her sexual appetite). I particularly like her nickname because it’s neutral; it suits both male Gabriels and female Gabrielas. And as you might have already noticed, my character walks the very fine line between conventional male and female attributes. 

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Art by Ricardo Cabret

Now here’s the irony- I built a female character who was fully confident and in control of her life because something was preventing me from feeling that way. For a very long time I had voiced my opinion against machismo, and then one day I caught myself upholding those same values. Judging women became way more easier than understanding them. But the moment I became aware of the fact that I was guilty of my own double-standards everything changed.

The short film’s writing began and I strived to live vicariously through Gabi. I allowed myself to live free like her, but I also allowed myself to feel judged like her. I’m not going to lie- all the “hater” attention from other female characters was somewhat thrilling, but it did get to a point where it was plain hurtful, and even the most liberated woman would’ve felt humiliated and worst, alone. I empathized with my protagonist and I vowed to defend all women like her. 

Then the feature screenplay came along, and I caught myself feeling uneasy again. I still empathized with Gabi, but I was also starting to understand other women, who perhaps would frown upon Gabi. Did this mean I was abandoning my Gabi ways? Was I switching sides?

A few days ago, the ultimate example of beauty and brains, Rashida Jones, published and online article, “Why is everyone getting naked? The Pornification of Everything.” If you haven’t read it, it’s kind of an open letter to the media and the public where she voices her frustration about the year 2013 being “the year of the very visible vagina.” She expands on a few tweets she made a while back lashing out at the pornification, or better yet, the over-pornification of certain pop-stars and how this movement has got to stop. To be fair, she clarifies that she loves sex and is in no way asking us to be prudes; she’s simply asking to tone it down. As you might suspect, Rashida received both support and heat for her blunt opinions. She admits she was shocked to hear other women call her a slut-shammer and a misogynist. 

Her article serves as the prime example of the great divide, and the grand fault behind women’s liberation: we don’t appreciate it when our own kind seems to sway back and forth between gender-classified opposing point of views. The moment we sense inconsistency in one of our sisters’ stances we fear to be viewed as weak, and we shun our sister out the club. But is this shifting pendulum really a weakening factor among us? 

Sure, I don’t know Rashida personally, but to put all of this into perspective, let’s just bounce around these general facts about her: she’s a well-educated woman, she’s in her mid-thirties, she’s financial independent (we can’t blame all of her success on Quincy Jones), she openly admits to being promiscuous for some time in her life, she’s been linked to multiple high-profile relationships, but hans’t settled down yet, and surprisingly, even this kind of modern, sexually liberated woman is saying- “Enough with sex! Let’s get to know women on a more profound level!”

And that’s where the funny feeling about the never-ending journey through womanhood kicks in. Let’s forget about the whole “setting an example for other women” fiasco for now, and actually ask ourselves: What does getting to know a woman on a more profound level really mean? What are women interested to learn about other women? And more excitingly, what will evoke us to open up with one another? 

The reality is that when I started to write about women I wasn’t trying to defend them; I was actually trying to connect with them. I thought to myself, “if I can understand where you’re coming from, I will be less likely to judge you.” However, the moment you attempt to expand on such a controversial concept, such as gender, you will inevitably undergo a huge learning curve. Your opinions and your stances will change over time, and that’s okay.

Perhaps the shifting pendulum should be embraced, rather than feared. Instead of crucifying each other over failed expectations, why not raise awareness about the fact that being a woman is an ever-changing, never-ending journey? 

Awareness may just guide us to openness: “Hey! I’m a woman too, I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing here. Maybe you, another woman, can teach me a thing or two?” Why not tackle the real blurred lines amongst each other with this kind of dialogue?

 

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Zoé Salicrup Junco

Zoé was born and raised in Puerto Rico. GABI is her thesis film from NYU film school, under the guidance of film director Susan Seidelman. In June 2012 Zoé became one of "The Independent" Magazine's top 10 filmmakers to watch in 2012. She is

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