What would change if government were majority women?

Middle school student wins video contest on political role reversal



Longer maternity leaves, universal daycare and more sex education programs.

Those were three of Rebecca Hansen’s winning answers to the question “What would change if your government was 75 per cent women?”

In her filmmaking debut, the Grade 8 student at Arbutus middle school addressed the issue of men outnumbering women in  in parliament by three-to-one and caught the attention of female MPs across party lines. Hansen’s mixed-media video, “What If…” won Dancing with the Octopus: Women in Politics’ filmmaking challenge on May 1.

“There have been so many issues and scandals and things just don’t seem to be working on Parliament Hill,” Hansen said. “This is a thought about ways to solve it and how ridiculous it is that a first-world country like Canada still has such a low number of female MPs.”

Oak Bay-based filmmaker Sandy Mayzell launched the multi-platform media project Dancing with the Octopus – which includes a website, web series, documentary, rock opera and comic book – as a way to engage women over a wide demographic with political questions and political action. Mayzell hoped that by reaching out through its inaugural film contest, she would initiate a conversation and hear what the world had to say around the underrepresentation of women in politics.

“Creativity is key,” Mayzell said. “Asking people to put thoughts together in a creative way helps get their message across better because it’s not just complaining.”

Social media spread word of the contest quickly. Dancing with the Octopus received submissions from all corners of the world, including one from Istanbul, Turkey, where the filmmaker captured images of physical violence in parliament.

“She showed men literally in fisticuffs, punching each other in the faces,” said Mayzell, who was stunned by the images.

Women on the east coast of Canada, as well as Afghanistan, South Africa, Switzerland, France and India also submitted videos.

“There was a common voice that women all over the world are not getting anywhere near an equal voice with men behaving badly,” Mayzell added.

At 13, Hansen was by far the contest’s youngest entrant. She heard of the opportunity via CBC Radio and crafted the minute-long video on her own, outside of a few “helpful critics,” she said. It was selected by a jury of five Canadian MPs from the five federal parties – Carolyn Bennett (Liberal), Elizabeth May (Green), Maria Mourani (Bloc), Denise Savoie (NDP) and Wai Young (Conservative).

Hansen will also receive a $500-prize with the honour.

Though the contest was a success, the next step for Dancing with the Octopus is to promote political involvement – action which begins at the polls, Mayzell said.

“As ridiculous as politics sometimes seem, we can change it and we have to show that we’re engaged for politics to ever change,” Hansen said. “I really hope for people to see that we have the power.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com