This week, an entitled misogynist sued a woman he went on a bad date with for using her mobile phone during a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. You might have seen the flurry of excited headlines harkening the moment as a breakthrough for cinema etiquette in the online age. Perhaps you retweeted someone celebrating a needless lawsuit as a “not all heroes wear capes” moment. Maybe you glanced at director James Gunn’s feed, where he “joked” that the woman, who has admitted to feeling hugely uncomfortable because of this man’s actions, deserves jail time. Or you’re possibly the man who swerved into my direct messages yesterday to lecture me on the issue, insisting the dangerous dynamics at play had nothing to do with gender, that this woman needed to be taught a lesson, that statistics on abusive attacks against women by men are not related to “reality” in this instance, and that as bad as this man is - this man who has milked his 15 minutes of fame, ordained by some of the biggest voices in film criticism as a hero, even as he continues to gaslight this woman and fill his Twitter feed with vile misogyny - he’s not as bad as a woman texting during a film.
Maybe that’s you. Or maybe you just know that guy, because I can say with utmost confidence that practically all of my female colleagues in this field know what it’s like to go up against a guy like that. It’s practically part of the job description to have encounters such as that, ones that leave you more shaken than you care to admit.
When this lawsuit news broke, I remember seeing near universal unease amongst women on my Twitter feed, and a fatal lack of understanding from too many male colleagues, who probably meant well but just couldn’t comprehend the lived experiences of public womanhood. It’s a dynamic that seems to fuel every area of society, but in terms of pop culture criticism and the ever-evolving amoeba of Film Twitter, it felt particularly potent this week. I have never felt a greater need for more amplified female voices in the film criticism world than I did this week.
Film Twitter cannot be defined. You just know it when you see it: That harried melting pot of 140 character hot-takes, combining blockbuster gossip with auteur analysis, arguing with both good nature and genuine sharpness, a vague social club that can feel simultaneously open to all and oddly elitist. I’ve met some of the best, most urgent voices in film criticism through my tentative trek into these muddied waters, and most of them were women I never would have found through my casual forays across the internet. Yet I feel the starkness of the gender divide heavily here, much like the industry for which Twitter is but a vocal microcosm of. This damn lawsuit is a particular example of that, but I also see it in the way certain films are discussed, or entire genres are dismissed immediately. Claire White at Bitch Flicks wrote about this gendered bias in relation to the works of Sofia Coppola, but it can also be seen in the way women directors are written about as glorious exceptions to the rest of our gender, or in the shunting of half the population from taking on major blockbusters while every scruffy white dude in a baseball cap gets his own franchise.
As noted by Jessica Chastain, film criticism is an overwhelmingly male occupation, much like the film industry itself. 2016 statistics showed that men make up 73% of top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. FiveThirtyEight highlighted the ways in which men drove down the average IMDb scores of TV shows aimed at women, and we all saw how that site was abused by misogynists and racists to attack Ghostbusters and Dear White People.
When every story you see, particularly the most expensive and widely appealing ones, are told exclusively through a white male lens, something is fundamentally wrong with our culture. The same can be said about the ways in which we consume and understand that culture. Even the most understanding and erudite of male critics — seriously, we do love you guys — can stumble when it comes to work made by and for women. Just check out the way romance novels are dismissed almost universally by literary outlets unless they need a quick Valentine’s Day hit-piece; or the sneering at the true crime genre, something mostly consumed by women, until it became critically acceptable to do so; or the barrage of think-pieces that follow the failure or success of every film made by or starring women, wondering what it signals for the future of the industry.
There is still an overwhelming assumption that the most privileged voices in our society represent an apolitical default mode, wherein they are qualified to talk authoritatively on every issue, free from a supposed agenda. That attitude tends to extend towards the cultural and social context of a piece of art too, so you see a lot of insistence on “separating art from the artist”, which is a pleasant falsehood and also a boring way to do criticism. When the critics recommending the films are from such a narrow demographic, and their views cannot help but be slanted by that bias, we all miss out. There is no artistic joy in false neutrality. This gap is all the wider for women of colour in our industry, who must fight a much tougher battle for representation and a chance to have their voices amplified. Yet they’re the ones leading the way for major industry change - #OscarsSoWhite would not have happened without a black woman critic making it happen.
As the world burns around us and we gather our popcorn for Impeachment-palooza, I want our dear readers to note the ways in which our pop culture was weaponized in this most toxic of political seasons. From GamerGate to the attacks against Ghostbusters to the Hugo Awards Sad Puppies take-over, to this sad little lawsuit: Toxic masculinity and white supremacy are using our entertainment as their battleground, demanding it be “taken back” from the demographics they despise. That’s why it matters when the men of Film Twitter laud something as deceptively benign as suing a mobile phone user in the cinema. That’s why it matters that we have more voices with the lived experience of dealing with rape culture call this out for what it is, lest we make a false idol of it.
Our world is at its best when every voice has a seat at the table and we amplify those who have been the most marginalized in our history. It’s not just good for society, it’s good for pop culture. In that spirit, I have listed below some incredible women, non-binary and gender non-conforming critics and writers for you to check out, and please make sure to share your favourites in the comments. Give them your time, your support, and your AdBlock free attention. And if you’re an editor browsing this page, consider a commission or two!
Abbey Bender - Village Voice.
Abby Olcese - Sojourners.
A. Angélique Roché - Ms Foundation/Black Girl Nerds.
Addison Peacock - Vague Visages/Horror Honeys.
Aisha Harris - Slate.
Alex Heller-Nicholas - Senses of Cinema.
Alex Landers - Vague Visages/Freelance.
Alicia Lutes - Nerdist
Alicia Malone - Fandango/FilmStruck.
Alison Willmore - Buzzfeed.
Alissa Wilkinson - Vox.
Alisha Grauso - Movie Pilot.
Allie Gemmill - Bustle/Teen Vogue/Freelance.
Allison Klein - Television Whore/Author.
Allyson Johnson - The Young Folks.
Alyssa Fikse - Uproxx.
Alyssa Rosenberg - Washington Post.
A.M. Novak - Birth Movies Death.
Amelia Cook - Anime Feminist.
Amelia E. - The Geekly Planet.
Amy Imhoff - Legion of Leia/Freelance.
Amy Kaufman - LA Times.
Amy Lam - On She Goes/Bitch Media.
Amy Nicholson - The Canon Podcast/Freelance.
Angel Cruz - Ms En Scene/Freelance.
Angie Errigo - Freelance.
Ani Bundel - Freelance.
Anissa Hanley - Black Nerd Problems.
Ann Hornaday - Washington Post
Anna Marks - Freelance.
Anne Billson - Freelance.
Anne T. Donahue - Freelance.
Anne Thompson - IndieWire.
Angelica Jade Bastien - Vulture.
Angie Han - Mashable.
April Wolfe - LA Weekly.
Asyiqin Haron - Geeks of Color.
Aja Romano - Vox.
Becky Lea - Den of Geek/SciFi Now.
Bella Blitz - Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Beth McDonough - Freelance.
BJ Colangelo - Freelance.
Black Girl Nerds
Britt Hayes - Screen Crush.
Britt Rivera - Clever Girls/Screen Rant.
Brittany Mosley - Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Brooke Corso - Freelance.
Brooke H. - Filmed in Ether.
Brooke Wylie - We Write Things.
Cameron Glover - Freelance.
Candice Frederick - Reel Talk Online.
Carina Chocano - Freelance.
Carli Velocci - The Wrap.
Carly Lane - Freelance.
Caroline Preece - Freelance.
Caroline Framke - Vox.
Caroline Madden - Screen Queens/Vague Visages.
Caroline Sharp - Angel City Sirens/Freelance.
Caroline Siede - Freelance.
Carrie McClain - Black Nerd Problems.
Carrie Rickie - Truthdig.
Casey Cipriani - Bustle/Freelance.
Cate Young - Freelance.
Catherine Grant - Freelance.
Catrina Dennis - Freelance.
Charlotte Sometimes - Freelance.
Chassity M. - Cinefilles/Horror Honeys.
Cher Martinetti- SyFy Fangrrls.
Chloe Catchpole - Den of Geek.
Chris Courtney Martin - Freelance.
Christina Newland - Freelance.
Christina Radish - Collider.
Christy Lemire - What the Flick/RogerEbert.com.
Clara Mae - Freelance.
Clarisse Loughrey - Independent.
Clarkisha Kent - Sublime Zoo/Freelance.
Constance Gibbs - New York Daily News.
Constance Grady - Vox.
Courtney Howard - Sassy Mama In LA/Freelance.
Cristina Álvarez - Freelance.
Dana Barbuto - Patriot Ledger.
Dana Linssen - de Filmkrant.
Dana Piccoli - Bella Books/Freelance.
Dana Stevens - Slate.
Danielle Burgos - Screen Slate.
Danielle Solzman - Solzy at the Movies/Freelance.
Deborah A. Krieger - Freelance.
Dee Hogan - Anime Feminist.
Delia Harrington - Den of Geek/Freelance.
Desiree Rodriguez - Freelance.
Diane Shipley - Freelance.
Diana Drumm - Female Critics.
Donna Bowman - AV Club.
Donna Dickens - Uproxx.
Doris V. Sutherland - Women Write on Comics/Horror Honeys.
Durga Chew-Bose - Freelance.
E. Oliver Whitney - Screen Crush.
Elena Lazic - Little White Lies.
Elizabeth Minkel - New Statesman.
Elizabeth Stoddard - Cinapse.
Ella Donald - Freelance.
Ellen E. Jones - Guardian.
Emily Asher-Perrin - Tor.com.
Emma Badame - Freelance.
Emma Fraser - Freelance.
Emma Simmonds - Radio Times/The List.
Emma Stefansky - Vanity Fair/Screen Crush.
Emma Thrower - Empire.
Emily Nussbaum - New Yorker.
Emily Roach - Freelance.
Emily Yoshida - Vulture.
Gabrielle Bondi - The Young Folks.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw - Daily Dot.
Genevieve Burgess - Pajiba/Freelance.
Genevieve Koski - Vox.
Genevieve Valentine - Freelance.
Grace Duffy - The Mary Sue/Freelance.
Haley Baker Callahan - YouTube.
Hannah McGill - The List/Sight and Sound.
Hannah Shaw-Williams - Screen Rant.
Hannah Sole - Pajiba.
Hannah Woodhead - Little White Lies.
Heather Mason - Syfy Fangrrls/HelloGiggles.
Heather Wixson - Daily Dead News.
Hel Harding-Jones - The Digital Fix.
Helen O’Hara - Empire.
Hoai-Tran Bui - Slashfilm
Jacqueline Coley - Freelance.
Jamie Broadnax - Black Girl Nerds.
Jamie Righetti - IndieWire/Pajiba.
Jane Douglas-Jones - Freelance.
Jen Render - Village Voice/Slate/Freelance.
Jen Scouler - The Fan Carpet/Lost in Drama
Jenna Anderson - ComicBook.com.
Jenni Miller - Bust Magazine.
Jen Yamato - LA Times.
Jenna Busch - Legion of Leia/ComingSoon.net.
Jessica Kiang - Playlist.
Jessica Ritchey - Freelance.
Jessy Critical - Scream Horror Magazine.
Jia Tolentino - New Yorker.
Jill Pantozzi - The Nerdy Bird.
Joanna Di Mattia - Seventh Row/Freelance.
Joanna Robinson - Vanity Fair.
Jocelyn Rivard - Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Joelle Monique - Black Girl Nerds/AfterBuzz.
Joi Childs - Black Girl Nerds.
Jourdain Natasha - Fishnet Cinema.
Justine Smith - Freelance.
Kaitlyn Booth - Bleeding Cool.
Kaitlyn Tiffany - The Verge.
Kaley Azuri - Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Kalyn Corrigan - Freelance.
Karen Han - Freelance.
Karen Krizanovich - The List/Freelance.
Karen M. Petersen - Awards Circuit.
Kat Ellinger - Diabolique Magazine.
Kat Morris - Horror Honeys/Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Kate Erbland - IndieWire.
Kate Gray - Freelance.
Kate Hagen - The Black List.
Kate Muir - The Times.
Kate Renne - Cinemascope/Freelance.
Kate Willært - Comics Beat/Freelance.
Katherine McLaughlin - The List/Little White Lies/Freelance.
Katherine Wells - Boys & Ghouls/Horror Honeys.
Katey Rich - Vanity Fair.
Katie Kuriosa - Horror Honeys/Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Katie Walsh - Freelance.
Katy Castillo - Yatta-Tachi.
Katy Rochelle - Freelance.
Kayleigh Hughes - Freelance.
Kayleigh Watson - Born Music Online/Freelance.
Kayti Burt - Den of Geek US.
Keah Brown - Cliche Mag/Freelance.
Kelly Kanayama - Freelance.
Kelly Lawler - USA Today.
Kenna Rae - Freelance.
Kerensa Cadenas - Complex Pop.
Kim Douthit - Horror Honeys/Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Kim Morgan - Sight and Sound.
Kimber Myers - Playlist/LA Times.
Kimberly Lindbergs - FilmStruck.
Kit Power - The London Economic.
Kristen Lopez - Freelance.
Kristen Yoonsoo Kim - Freelance.
Kristin Hunt - Freelance.
Kristy Puchko - Pajiba/Freelance.
Lacy Baugher - Freelance.
Laura Sirikul - Nerd Reactor.
Lauren Bullock - Black Nerd Problems.
Lauren Gallaway - Comic Book Resources.
Lauren H. Brooks - Freelance.
Lauren Wilford - Bright Wall Dark Room.
Leah Schnelbach - Tor.com.
Leigh Monson - Substream/Birth.Movies.Death.
Lena Houst - Freelance.
Lilly Goren - Scholar/Freelance.
Linda Holmes - NPR.
Lindsay Ellis - YouTube.
Lindsey Bahr - Associated Press.
Lindsey Romain - Thrillist.
LinnieSarah Helpern - Belladonna Horror Magazine.
Lisa Bolekaja - Bitch Flicks.
Lisa Rosman - NY1.
Liz Baessler - Film School Rejects/Freelance.
Mallory Andrews - Cleo Journal.
Manohla Dargis - New York Times.
Manuela Lazic - Seventh Row/Little White Lies/Freelance.
Margaret Maurer - Screen Rant.
Mari Jones - The Digital Fix.
Maria Lewis - Junkee/Film Ink.
Marquette Jones - Directing Magic Podcast.
MaryAnn Johanson - FlickFilosopher
Max Weiss - Baltimore Magazine.
Meg Downey - DCComics.com/CBR.
Melissa E. Anderson - Village Voice.
Melissa Leon - The Daily Beast.
Melissa Silverstein - Women and Hollywood.
Melissa Tamminga - Seattle Screen.
Meredith Borders - Birth Movies Death.
Michelle Buchmann - Nerdist/Freelance.
Michelle Jaworski - Daily Dot.
Milena Popova - Freelance.
Miranda Sanchez - IGN.
Miriam Bale - Freelance.
Miriam Olken - Shaded Ideas.
Mo Ryan - Variety.
Moira Macdonald - The Seattle Times.
Molly Freeman - Screen Rant.
Molly Haskell - Author/Freelance.
Molly Lambert - Freelance.
Molly Templeton - Eugene Weekly/Tor.com.
Mónica Belevan - Vague Visages.
Monica Castillo - NYT Watching.
Monique Jones - Just Add Color.
Moxie McMurder - Freelance.
Nancy Wang Yuen - Reel Inequality/Huffington Post.
Natalie Ng - Filmed in Ether.
Natalie Zutter - Tor.com.
Nicole Homer - Black Nerd Problems.
Nikki Baughan - Screen Daily/BFI/Freelance.
Nix Santos - Freelance.
Pamela Pianezza - Freelance.
Paula Bernstein - Filmmaker Magazine.
Perri Nemiroff - Collider.
Pilot Viruet - Vice.
Preeti Chhibber - Book Riot/SyFy Fangrrls.
Priscilla Page - Birth Movies Death.
Priya Sridhar - Book Riot.
Rachel Bellwoar - Flickering Myth/Freelance.
Rachel Handler - Vulture.
Rachel Heine - Nerdist.
Rachel Simon - Bustle.
Rae Nudson - Freelance.
Raquel Stecher - Freelance.
Rebecca Harkins-Cross - The big Issue/The Lifted Brow.
Rebecca Keegan - Vanity Fair.
Rebecca Pahle - Pajiba/Film Journal.
Rebecca Theodore - Cinema In Noir.
Regine Sawyer - Women in Comics NY.
Riley Silverman - SyFy Fangrrls/Freelance.
Rosalie Kicks - Moviejawn Zine.
Rosie Knight - Women Write on Comics/Nerdist.
Roth Cornet - Screen Junkies.
Roxana Hadadi - Pajiba/Freelance.
Samantha Riedel - Bitch Media/Freelance.
Sara Michelle Fetters - Seattle Gay News.
Sara Stewart - New York Post.
Sarah Dobbs - Den of Geek/Freelance.
Sarah Miles - The Horror Honeys/The Digital Fix.
Sarah/Cinesnark - LaineyGossip
Sasha Stone - Awards Daily.
Shana O’Neil - SyFy Fangrrls
Shannon Miller - Freelance.
Shannon Strucci - YouTube.
Sheila O’Malley - RogerEbert.com.
Simran Hans - Observer/Freelance.
So Yum Un - So’s Reel Thoughts.
Sonia Saraiya - Variety.
Sophie Davies - The Velvet Onion/Freelance.
Staci Layne Wilson - At Home in Hollywood/Freelance.
Stacia Kissick Jones - Next Projection.
Stephanie Cooke - Rogues Portal.
Stephanie T. - Women Write on Comics/Freelance.
Stephanie Zacharek - Time.
Swapna Krishna - SyFy Wire Fangirls/Paste Magazine.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner - New York Times.
Tai Gooden - Freelance.
TaLynn Kel - Freelance.
Tara Bennett - SFX Magazine.
Tara Martinez - Screen Rant/Freelance.
Tasha Robinson - Verge.
Tatiana Craine - Village Voice/Freelance.
Thelma Adams - New York Observer/Freelance.
Tina Hassannia - Freelance.
Tomris Laffly - Freelance.
Tricia Ennis - SyFy Wire.
Trisha Gupta - Mumbai Mirror.
Trudy - Cinemacked.