What else was I up to during my winter blogging hiatus? My most initially time-consuming movie project outside of Spellbound involves Twitter. After articles from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and Variety bemoaned the lack of women film critics or their lack of prominence in the industry, I decided to do something pro-active. I created a women film critics list on Twitter. Even though I knew there are a lot of women film critics out there, I did not predict how many hours I’d devote to working on the list!
Based on my internet networking and reading, I knew there wasn’t a dearth of women of all ages engaging with and writing about movies. A lot of easily found online film writing from any gender falls into the category of uncritical fandom. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and delighting in what we enjoy. Sometimes a heartfelt personal recollection of what a movie or performer means to a blogger has more impact than an intellectual analysis, and sometimes both are great pieces to read. My goal in creating the list was to help others find true critics. If you know where to look, there are women producing quality film criticism. My list would cut down the search time to find them.
I began adding familiar critics I knew were on Twitter, and once I had a small list, I started crowdsourcing. I began Tweeting about the list and asking for recommendations. Complain about the term Film Twitter or the community if you like, but Film Twitter was wonderful in responding. The majority of responses I received were not self-serving. Many people, not just women, pointed me to women whose work they enjoy and admire. Some sent me multiple tweets as they thought of additional list members. Bilge Ebiri was one of the stand-outs in repeatedly sharing new recommendations with me. He was walking down the street while tweeting to me, and I imagined him having to avoid slapstick scenarios like walking into street lights or against pedestrian signals. All responders linked to critics’ Twitter handles in Tweets and suddenly these women critics were receiving notifications that their work was valued. Twitter was turning into a love fest! In turn, that led to the new list members suggesting others for inclusion.
One issue I had not predicted was the impact of transgenderism on building the list. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve not used the term “female film critics” as the word female relates to reproductive capabilities. If a person identified as a woman, and she was a movie critic, then I had no problem in listing her, and I received no negative feedback from those women in being included on the list. I was not about to police chromosomes. I was looking for a range of women’s perspectives to add to the list. In a few situations, people recommended I add individuals who may present visually in their styling as women, but identify as they and them in personal pronouns. One such person was good-humored about it and immediately tweeted a correction, so I asked about adding them to my general film critics Twitter list, and they were happy with that solution. In a couple of other cases, I initiated discussion about which list they were comfortable being added to.
Some self-recommendations proved problematic. On Twitter I shared the list was a work-in-progress and recommendations were welcome. The majority of those asking to be added were understanding about not being included yet. Only one major critic told me I had forgotten to add her. I politely responded in a way that seemed to diffuse the situation. Every once in a rare while someone self-recommended who was more aspirational in applying the term film critic to herself. Maybe her body of work was in a creative writing field with few film reviews published recently. Maybe her blog was mostly a personal one with a rare post on film. Maybe her only work published in an outlet was about TV. I tried to be diplomatic when speaking with these women. I didn’t want to diminish the value of the list for those looking for women writing about film, nor did I want to discourage these future movie critics. I always can reconsider someone for inclusion later as they rack up publication credits.
Obviously I developed criteria for making the list. To be fair, I sought feedback from Film Twitter as I created and revised my criteria. Marilyn Ferdinand, Alex Heller-Nicholas, and Sabina Stent were especially helpful during this process. Here’s what I came up with. To be added to the list, women film critics could come from the journalistic or academic traditions. They would have to publish consistently. That did not mean weekly publication as not all outlets follow that schedule, and many women film critics work as freelancers. Outlets include physical print (e.g. magazines, newspapers, and books), online magazines, radio, TV, prominent film blogs, podcasts, and YouTube. Reviewers did not necessarily have to be financially paid for their work. I’m aware that many writers agree to be paid in publication credits, and there are reviewers who self-publish and have followings. In some cases, there were women I could add to the list due to having publication credits, but their Twitter feeds rarely have anything to do with movies. This was especially true of Millennial writers who focus more on cultural commentary on Twitter while their publication credits sometimes include film commentary. I decided that list subscribers want to find women’s film writing, so I didn’t add anyone who doesn’t at least Tweet periodically about film. Right now the list focuses on women who cover contemporary film, and I’m considering who qualifies as a critic working within only the classic film community. As I said before, this is a list is a work-in-progress!