Salient. Official Newspaper of the Victoria University Students' Association. Vol 41 No. 19. July 31 1978
I want to be Joan
I want to be Joan
I Want to be Joan was made last year at the United Women's Convention in Christchurch. It largely consists of six interviews with participants at the Conference. These women did not have a long involvement with women's rights organisations but had come to recognise particular aspects of their oppression and fight against it.
One woman's husband used to beat her if he found she went out at night when he was out, even though she arranged a babysitter. Another had a breakdown just before her daughter's wedding. Looking back she said, "I tried to be a super wife and mum, now I just want to be Joan."
The simplicity of her statement, and the basic awakening of self-awareness was the message of this film. Director Stephanie Beth had managed to catch all six women at a fundamental time in their lives: a time of new-found confidence and strength. Her aim, and the film's success, was the straightforward transmission of this feeling to the audience.
The film festival audience was not Beth's intended public, and not all sections of that audience were able to appreciate what she was trying to do. Many people openly scoffed at the film, and its end was greeted with a competing mixture of applause and hissing.
To be sure, the film did not even begin to analyse the conditions of its subjects, or the broader nature of their oppression. Nor did it suggest any methodological approach to the oppression of women or ways of developing individual and collective struggle.
Yet as Beth explained, her intention was to take the film into private living-rooms, small community halls: to take it out to groups of housewives and use it as a basis for discussion. It's not so much what's in the film as what happens afterwards, she stated.
In this sense, while I Want to be Joan does not go very far it will serve as an invaluable statement, by women, of their ability and determination to recognise that their position in life is wrong and that something can be done about it. It is a starting point, and a very necessary one. The intellegensia who scoffed at the apparent triteness of its content may not have been able to appreciate that; but I suggest Stephanie Beth's film will have more social value than most of the other festival offerings put together.