EQUALS, a partnership of leading charities brought together by Annie Lennox to celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day, created a PSA where English actor Daniel Craig, appears in the role of James Bond wearing a suit and later in drag while English actress Dame Judi Dench does a voice over highlighting the many inequities faced by women.
The PSA raises interesting questions and images around the deliberate selection of an internationally recognizable pop culture symbol of James Bond, a fictional character that represents imperialism, hyper-masculinity, violence, misogyny, heterosexuality, and normative gender presentation. The film clip, although only about two minutes long, focuses exclusively on a singular male-identified character, as the viewer listens to a string of statistics of how women experience inequality around the world and in the United Kingdom. Halfway through the clip, Dame Judie Dench poses James Bond the following question: “For someone with such a foundness for women, I wonder if you’ve ever considered what it’s like being one?”
Shortly thereafter, the James Bond emerges from afar to approach the camera wearing a dress, blonde wig, earrings, high heel shoes and noticeably padding on his chest to suggest breasts. Now that the character is in drag, the viewer is left to interpret this costume change or rather performance in gender presentation as “what it is like to be a woman” without any verbal insight of James Bond’s thoughts. Seconds later, we see the character remove the blonde wig and earrings as he continues to listen to Dame Judi Dench highlight statistics of how women experience violence, economic and educational inequality in the United Kingdom.
The EQUALITY PSA reminded me of Walk a Mile In Her Shoes, a activity popular across the U.S. where men wear high heel shoes and walk a mile to raise awareness around violence against women. Both the PSA and Walk A Mile In Her Shoes share an assumption in conveying its message of ending violence and challenging social norms: gender presentation/performance gives men that don’t already challenge gender presentation, an idea of what women experience through clothes, shoes and accessories as they walk in public as if all the conditions needed to know what it is like to be a woman are reflected/recreated/reproduced by how the body is decorated and/or presented to others. Is it?
Despite my hesitation to embrace the PSA’s approach in challenging audiences to consider women’s rights, it does end on a note that encompasses the essence of activism. Dame Judi Dench pointedly says: “so, are we equals? Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking.” And I would add, until the answer is yes, we need to collaborate as we strive for equality.
What do you think?