Gender, Race, Age - Being A Woman
“Knock Down The House” inspired me to write this series of articles. I had a very strong emotional reaction after watching it on Sunday. I was subbing so violently almost gotten myself into a hyperventilating state. After days of processing, I still have no words to describe how I felt, but it made me want to do something. The documentary reminded me so many things that I have experienced as an asian woman trying to survive at this land of “American Dreams.” But people often forget, it doesn't matter how wonderful the dreams are, we eventually have to wake up. And, waking up is only the beginning of the actual journey.
This February, an incident happened at work. The production I worked on at the time was trying to finish our last episode and happened to pick the worse weather to shoot in the woods. In the pouring rain, everyone set up their tents trying to stay warm and dry in the dark. A colleague gifted me an ice-fishing tent that he had not been using when we resumed shooting after holidays. I thought this night would be the night to test it out and see if it is suitable for my setup. With a tiny personal heater running inside, my tent became a cozy relaxing spot for the electric department. It was not huge but could fit up to 4 people comfortably, including me and the whole shenanigan of my equipments.
That night, my tent were visited by other departments twice. The first time was AD yelling at us being too rowdy in the tent during filming, which was pretty funny. The second time was a caucasian male opening my tent door and asking to borrow my space dressing stun actors. I was in shock for a few seconds both by him and his question when he poked his head in. I knew of this person but I did not know who he was or what department he worked for. By this time of the shoot, I was already friends with many people on set and knew for sure he did not belong to the costume department. For those who don’t work in TV, each department has very clear passed down rules on set, including guide lines of what your job is and what duties included. It is a very well-oiled machine down to every last tiny screws. It would be very disrespectful over stepping the boundaries and interfering the works of other departments. Having those in mind, I answered “ No.” He made a face as if he didn’t hear me. So I said “No” again clearly. He hesitated a few seconds after I replied but still closed my door and left.
I exchanged a look with the other electrician in the tent without a word. In a few seconds, we moved on and continued our work. But a minute later, that male returned, starting to lecture me how rude I was and how terrible my attitude was, etc. He went on and on. I stopped him and said audibly “ You asked me a yes-or-no question and I answered “No.” My tent is for me to work under this kind of elements specifically. If you need costume help, you should go to the costume department.” I thought I had made my point clear, but he carried on his lecture for another minute then left. I asked my colleague in the tent, was I rude?! He was like, nope. I knew I was not talking in my usual soft tone but I didn’t think I was rude either.
There were many other tents around but only three of them had doors including mine. One was the sound; one was the camera; the last one was mine. You might have guessed but yes, both sound and camera tents each were occupied by one caucasian male. On top of that, I felt that he had no clues what my job was and, in his eyes, I was only a young girl staring into computer on set all day long. I was infuriated! I strongly felt that he targeted me because I was a woman, and that also gave him “the right to educate me how to behave.”
The next day, as we were setting up, I learned that he actually approached my boss, the gaffer, at the parking lot after we wrapped in the woods and told him, again, how rude the “Female Electrician” was etc. For the record, I was the ONLY core female electrician that had been around for all shoot days on that production and my name was alway on the call sheet. In the other words, I was on set all the time and you could hear both my boss and DPs calling out my name when lighting adjustments needed! My costumer friends were furious when they heard what happened while we were eating breakfast. Not only did they take care of all things as always when that dude was trying to find a place, he did not even approach or check in with them before he set out to hunt for a dressing room. It was then I learned that he was the stun coordinator.
After a couple days of debating in my head, and with supports from my department, I reported the incident to the producer and the unit production manager. By then, it was the last day of our shoot. The producer promised she would talk to him and follow up.
I did not share this incident to ask for your sympathy, but instead, I am writing to tell you how proud I am of myself. I am finally able to stand up for myself and use my newly-found voice to put down boundaries. I thought about letting it go before writing a long email reaching out to my boss explaining what had happened and how I felt. But, I decided to pursue it and to see it through. Because, I am 100% sure that he must have treated many other women on set in the same manner and did not suffer any consequences. For those women that were too afraid to fight, I want to fight; fight for a future that our sisters and daughters won’t have to experience what we experienced. We deserve to be respected and be treated right; not just in relationships; not just at homes. It should be everywhere, from the street to the professional fields, EVERYWHERE.
I don’t hate men. It took me years of suffering and searching to realize how absurd the world around me is and I have had enough. I had been too ignorant for too long to take up the space I rightfully deserve and I want it back now. I have no intention to attack anyone, but if you cross the boundaries, I will defend and protect myself with all forces.
There is one thing I wish I had a chance to tell that dude and I will use it to end this post:
You are just not used to a minority woman saying “NO” to you. It is 21st century, get the F used to it. I am not responsible for your fragile masculinity.