â€śWadjdaâ€ť is a film made of moments. Obviously, every film technically is, but itâ€™s rare to find a movie that layers so much into what appear to be simple events.
Take one shot, when 10-year-old Saudi girl Wadjda is looking at her fatherâ€™s family tree. Her unclesâ€™ names are there, as are their sonsâ€™; her dadâ€™s name appears, too, but there are no leaves coming from his branch, since Wadjda is his only child. Her dad loves her â€” thatâ€™s obvious in their scenes together â€” but she can clearly see she doesnâ€™t really count.
In a film of extraordinary moments, one stood out for me because it sums up feminism. Wadjda desperately wants a bike, but it keeps slipping from her grasp. Trying to be nice, her friend Abdullah says heâ€™ll lend her his. â€śIf you give me your bike,â€ť she retorts, â€śhow will we race?â€ť
â€śFeminismâ€ť has become such a needlessly loaded, unfairly burdened term. And I could go on about patriarchy and male privilege and how that feeds into many peopleâ€™s reluctance to identify themselves as feminists. And now I donâ€™t have to, because I can point to the moment where a Saudi girl tells her friend that she doesnâ€™t want to take anything from him. She wants something of her own â€” something that will benefit not only her, but him. If she gets a bike, they can have more fun together. He wonâ€™t have to circle around her while he rides and she walks on their way to school. They can race, and sometimes sheâ€™ll win, and sometimes he will. Sheâ€™s not asking to get a bike for free, or to have his taken away. Sheâ€™s not lobbying to change the rules. (Technically, itâ€™s not against Saudi law for Wadjda to buy and ride a bike. But there are a lot of things women worldwide can do legally that we still donâ€™t for fear of cultural retribution or because of the risk of physical harm. Itâ€™s legal for me to run alone at night. I donâ€™t.)
Iâ€™m pretty much done arguing about what feminism is and what it isnâ€™t; itâ€™s tiresome, particularly on Twitter (yay, â€śblockâ€ť button!). But now, thanks to this, the best film Iâ€™ve seen all year, I have a simple explanation for those too thickheaded or stubborn to listen to complex theories: Men have bikes. We want bikes, too. Then we can ride off together.