In one of my Film & Digital Media seminars this spring, a classmate had us do an exercise: She showed us a series of photos of well-known female directors, such as Lynne Ramsay and Sally Potter—women whose movies a group of film students would likely have seen and admired, some of whose work I count among my favorites. With the exceptions of Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow, most of us weren't able to identify a single one by sight. And if we couldn't, who could?
Only once I started traveling on my own, at 18, did I understand that, as Vanessa Veselka says "a man on the road is solitary. A woman on the road is alone. This is not cute wordplay, but a radically different social experience." The mild suspicion of everyone from strangers on trains, to hostel staff, to groups of fellow travelers was first surprising, then irksome, and then wearily anticipated. While I'm sure that, on average, single men meet with far more suspicion than single women, it was made quite clear to me that in this context men were seen as being adventurous, while I was a cause for concern—"a dangerous blank."