Mustang (2015)

This film made me angry. Living in a medium-sized city in the American South, I’m often reminded of how backwards people can be. But I forget how that’s just the tip of the iceberg compared to the cultures of some countries. Films like this remind us that the mentality of some people goes far back into a time that makes The Dark Ages look enlightened.

Mustang is the story of five sisters. They live with their uncle and grandmother after the death of their parents. As they begin to blossom into womanhood, they are trained and prepared to be married off as soon as possible. Every bad stereotype of women, every call to be pure virgins, every backwards way of thinking of gender relations is poured onto them by their grandmother as she tries to turn them into delicate porcelain dolls to be bartered.

Rebellion brews among the sisters. A couple go off to explore their sexuality with the local boys, another seeks escape while one falls into complacency. These are characters with spirit, those not willing to resign to a life laid out before them because systems of social oppression and ancient modes of thinking. These are brave, bold young women, not docile dolls to be engulfed in drab dresses.

As we near a time where it looks likely America will have its first female president, it’s easy to think that we’ve made progress, that feminism is on the move. That here in the West, we are more enlightened than a country like Turkey. And while that’s an accomplishment, how does that help the situation of women halfway across the world?

Also how does it help when the same female president’s campaign was largely funded by Saudi Arabia, a country that in 2015 ranked in the bottom 5% of 145 countries for gender parity. Sure, we’re taking one step forwards, but we’re also taking two steps back.

Real women are in situations just like those depicted in Mustang and female world leaders that support countries that perpetuate these systems of domination and control of women are not true feminists. They may forward progressive agendas at home, but we are first and foremost citizens of the world. And if we don’t want to make the world a better place for all women around the globe, can we really call ourselves feminists? I hope to God the answer is no.

© 2016 James Blake Ewing