Filmmaker discusses women’s roles in government

The creator of a documentary chronicling women’s roles in government, media and society discussed her movie Tuesday night at Funger Hall.

As part of GW’s celebration of women’s history month, Maryann Breschard, the author and filmmaker who created the 2006 documentary, “Running in High Heels,” put her documentary on display Tuesday evening and took questions from the audience. Breschard’s film follows the campaign of Emily Csendas as she ran for the state senate in New York and discusses the discrepancy between the number of women in America and the number holding elected positions.

Though her film highlights the low number of women in politics, Breschard said she sees positive developments toward closing the political gender gap.

“Part of the reason there are so few woman in elected office is that politics, especially on a national level, is an incumbency club, and there are just not a lot of positions for women to take,” she said. “What the Democratic Party has done is when an elected official retires, they are trying to nominate women because they know they will win.”

The film also touched on the perception of women in the media, balancing a full-time job and campaigning at the same time, and the spectrum of views about what the future of women’s rights should look like. Experts in the film included Heidi Hartman of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative political activist, and Eleanor Smeal, president and founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

“I like talking to college audiences because I don’t have to tell them what to think. That is what I think I accomplished in the movie: I tried to present both sides,” Breschard said.

While making the film, Breschard said she learned that women’s rights interest groups are often at odds because they all seek to raise money from the same donors.

“If they worked together they would have a hard time raising money for their own causes,” she said.

Some students in the audience appreciated the film’s balance.

“The video was very bipartisan and did not take a side,” freshman Erica Orsini said. “It helped me identify what I may face after I graduate and while I believe that some people see feminism as a stigma where women just burn their bras and are free-spirited, I also think that this video helped me see what the discrimination really looks like and what is being done about it.”

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