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Hand a girl a camera and the sexist media industry can start looking for the exit

Being critical towards media messages is vital, but at some point, we need to actually produce new material for when (not if) the sexist TV shows, movies, and commercials finally dissolve. This is the rocking attitude behind Camp Reel Stories.

Camp Reel Stories is a media camp for teenage girls located in Oakland, California, where the campers get to write, shoot, and edit their own short films. The camp is also spiced up with workshops, talks, and smaller assignments that are all connected to the process of filmmaking.

The idea is to change the misrepresentation of gender in the media by creating new, young female voices. When women and girls are better represented behind the scenes, they are better reflected on the screen. I volunteered for the camp and I was astonished by what I saw.

During the week the campers had a chance to learn about creating and pitching ideas, using film equipment, being critical to media messages, editing, and working in teams.

Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, Pia Guerrero from Adios Barbie and SheHeroes, Dreamworks animator and director Jill Culton, and Academy Award winner Brenda Chapman, who is the first woman to direct an animated feature from a major studio and the creator of Pixar’s Brave, led talks and workshops. These were just a few of the amazing women who contributed.

After five days of marinating in this professional inspiration and film production, it was time for a public film festival where the campers could show their films and host Q&A sessions afterward. I was stunned at how articulate, intelligent, and fierce these young women are, and during the screenings I couldn’t stop grinning from witnessing this girl power which made my feminist heart beat faster.

Teenage girls’ voices are so rarely heard, but oh my, when they get a hold of camera or a microphone, they kick-ass!

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Give girls some cameras and you will get stories about different fears people battle with, what happiness means, a teenager that discovers an unexpected friend, the struggle of being different, a society numbed by pills, and a film about how kind words and smiles can brighten someone’s life. If this is the result of just a few modest days of filming and editing, think of what the Hollywood industry could do for female voices.

If Camp Reel Stories and similar activist organizations keep this up, I’m positive the sexist media will eventually crumble. At least there will be a strong and visible alternative out there. Why would we watch the gazillionth movie about the “one man” who rescues someone through the use of violence, if we could watch real stories about real women? Camp Reel Stories prove that if you give girls a voice, you can hear them roar.

Siri Nybakk is a Norwegian journalist currently working on her master’s degree at University of San Francisco. Her thesis is about how organizations and activism can spark a change to how women are portrayed in the media. As a feminist she is especially passionate about how female sexuality is represented and the awesomeness of Swedish feminist cartoons.

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