s(H)e: A Docuseries "Through the Lenses of Feminism"
- Ariel, May, Julie and Alaya created a docuseries ©Sciences Po
Alaya, Ariel, Julie and May are Undergraduate Students at Sciences Po, Le Havre campus. In 2019, they launched s(H)e: a docuseries looking into humanity through the lenses of feminism. They frequently publish videos covering a wide variety of topics, like parenting while studying, practising Islam, or discussing premenstrual syndrome. They tell us about their project.
Why did you choose to tackle feminist issues through a docuseries?
Ariel: Conducting conversations between different stakeholders is key in tackling feminist issues nowadays. A docuseries provides a platform for various people to initiate a dialogue, to exchange ideas, as well as emotions.
Alaya: Yes, a docuseries was the way to give people a platform to speak about what they believed in: it allows one to actively engage in a conversation, create dialogue, and hopefully build a culture that remains not just your legacy but a start of a movement.
Julie: Also, I personally consume a lot of video content on a daily basis and I think nowadays a lot of people from our generation does the same. The good thing about video is that you can capture everything, emotions, a certain look on one’s face, etc. which can be really telling and add more than words.
Why is it important for you to bring "new perspectives" to gender equality issues?
May: For me that means paying more attention to the perspectives of people that find themselves to be a minority. Oftentimes what we find as feminism in the Western world is based on the struggles that middle and upper-class white women face. We aim to expand this horizon by providing a more intersectional and inclusive understanding of feminism.
Julie: Most people, when they hear the word feminism, they have a specific idea of what it is and what a feminist looks like. But in reality, feminism is as diverse as our world is. Within the four of us, each one has a completely different concepts and beliefs around feminism, but it doesn't prevent us from acknowledging all points of view.
Alaya: Yes, it was important for all of us to create a platform that was as diverse as our team and preach an intersectional voice: I believe that everyone must be their own voice and tell their own stories and hopefully that’s what people are recognising with s(H)e.
How do you choose the topics you cover?
Ariel: All the members of s(H)e can contribute ideas to our episode topics: we often look for topics that get left out in mainstream feminist conversations, or controversial topics that deserve more discussions from the impacted community. Also, the people on our campus give us amazing inspirations: Le Havre campus has a huge diversity of international students, especially Asian students that can shed light on an Asian perspectives on feminism.
May: Our producer, Alaya, is in charge of idea creation and she has been most active out of all of us in researching and embodying intersectional feminism. Many of the episode ideas stem from her and are based on the need to give the underprivileged a voice. Of course, we find ourselves to be in a very privileged environment at Sciences Po, but even here there are feminist issues that often get left out of the conversation.
Alaya: The idea behind all our episodes is to spark a conversation not only amongst our campus, but for it to be a larger movement, for it to be a constant thought in everyone’s mind. These topics are not niche, they concern all of us and our aim is to ensure that they do, in fact, concern all of us and that we are aware of them. Sometimes, we feel that there isn't diversity at Sciences Po, that people have the same inclinations. s(H)e proves this wrong: you teach some and you learn some and you hopefully take with you an experience and an idea that the world is bigger than just me and you but that does not mean that we can’t talk.
You recently launched a new episode on the Vagina Monologues, could you tell us more?
Julie: The Vagina Monologues is an event that has been going on our campus since last year and we really loved the concept of it! As a feminist docu-series, it seemed logical to share such an event with our audience. This s(H)e episode shares the highlights of the different, but powerful and beautiful monologues performed by students. It is a show that I hope everyone could watch one in their lifetime. It truly changed my vision of the women’s body and made me realize my own prejudice against the word vagina.
Ariel: The Vagina Monologues is not just a performance, it is a process of growth: to let women recognise and explore the beauty of their bodies, and to realise that women must strive to reclaim their body from the patriarchy. This whole metamorphosis is reflected from the interviews with the organising team and the performers. I hope that it will inspire the audiences and invoke new thoughts and discussions on sexuality!
May: Actually, I myself performed a monologue last year. But I realized that once the evening was over, the event slowly but surely lost its impact. Because of that, I found it to be important to document this event to keep circulating the message that comes with it.
If you had to choose one episode of the series, which one would you choose?
Julie: To be honest, choosing only one episode is impossible, all of them feature amazing people and amazing ideas or debates. But if I really had to choose one I’d probably say Alexa’s episode on Motherhood. This episode is very dear to me. Alexa is probably one of the most amazing women I ever had the chance to meet. She really made me change my vision of motherhood. But also, this episode is actually the first one we finished. It reminds me of our beginnings, the four of us in May’s Crous room with way too many ideas but no skills or time to make them work. It took us 4 months to produce this episode, now we have new ones every two weeks. This is crazy to see how s(H)e grew up in such little time!
Alaya: That’s a tough question to answer only because each episode represents a different struggle, a different battle, a different perspective united under the beautiful idea of diversity and equality. If I had to pick an episode that has a special place in my heart it would have to be the episode on Islam. Coming from a religiously diverse background and my mother’s side being Muslim in an increasingly islamophobic India, a significant portion of my childhood was listening to misinformed and hateful comments about Islam and specifically on how Muslim women had no agency. The Islam episode in many ways for me was my answer to these misinformed and hateful comments.
Ariel: This is a very difficult question! If I have to choose, on the basis that which episode created a bigger impact on my personal perspective on feminism, it would also be “Motherhood”. Coming from an Asian background, I have heard a lot of voices saying that “being a housewife, or a mother will only disconnect you from the society and make you even more inferior”. But Alexa’s interpretation of motherhood has opened another door for me to understand what it is to be a mother — that a mother is just another human being, and a mother also has her own life, and we should not impose too many expectations on this role. This episode really helps me to break away from the endless downward spiral of stereotyping motherhood.
May: The Boys Episode - both parts! In my personal life, the most heated discussions I’ve had about feminism have been with boys that either did not accept the word “feminism”, or another particular part of the movement, suggesting that it was too radical, too extreme and that women are already “really equal” in our society. I’ve always believed that men are essential in bringing the movement forward. We thought therefore that it would be a great idea to foster exchange and dialogue between the very diverse set of men we had on our campus. This episode received a lot of positive feedback, proving that the idea of including the male sex in the fight for gender equality is an essential and indispensable step!
- Watch the docuseries on s(H)e’s YouTube channel
- Follow s(H)e activities on social media: Facebook, Instagram
- Le Havre Campus: a regional concentration on Asia and the Pacific
- Listen to the podcast of the conference Even Ensler, The Vagina Monologues’ playwright, gave at Sciences Po in 2013 with the French anthropologist Françoise Héritier