She Objects: filmmaker takes on gender stereotypes in Hong Kong media

Local director Nicola Fan’s documentary shows how media affects perceptions of women, leading to self-esteem and eating problems, as well as rising violence against women

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 6:01pm

The title of She Objects is a word play with a double meaning. On one hand, the new documentary film is about how media objectifies women. On the other, it is objecting to this type of portrayal.

She Objects, which explores how traditional and new social media sexualise and diminish women, is directed by emerging Hong Kong filmmaker Nicola Fan. The 27-year-old has worked as a freelancer, producing music videos and shorts and directing marketing campaigns. This is her first full-length documentary.

Fan says the issue resonates with her. “I remember growing up in Hong Kong, I was confused half the time. There were many, many voices around me telling me how to be a girl. I feel especially in Hong Kong, the weight of these beliefs can be extra heavy.”

Fan’s film shows how ubiquitous the biased portrayal of women is in Hong Kong society by interlacing excerpts from local films and advertisements. “Those were the materials I looked into as well to define who I am, to find myself,” she says. Fan recalls how as a teenager, she once didn’t eat for days before going on a date, just to make sure she would not have a bloated stomach.

The hour-long film features local singer Joyce Cheng Yan-yee, leading experts and other interviewees, showing how media has influenced society, especially young girls, causing self-esteem issues, eating disorders and rising violence against females.

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In addition, it takes the audience into the minds of four cases, a young lady who engaged in compensated dating, a guy with an addiction to pornography, a girl who grew up being bullied for being chubby and another who exchanged sex for love.

Also a graphic designer, Fan uses animation to depict the scenarios so people can focus on their stories instead of their appearance. “What I was essentially trying to do was to capture a moment of inner thoughts,” says Fan.

“We have four cases but there are so many more out there,” says Fan, who hopes the film can speak to them and their situation. “I think the documentary has reached its purpose if just someone in the audience realises they are going through the same thing and try to actively change from themselves first.”

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She Objects was featured at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where the chief executive of the Women’s Foundation, Su-Mei Thompson, participated in a panel discussion about gender equality. The film is part of a broader campaign by the Women’s Foundation, asking people to think more critically of the media portrayal of females and the messages being sent to the public.

She Objects will receive its red carpet premiere on June 14, at 6pm at the HSBC Headquarters. A community screening of the film will be held on June 23 at the University of Hong Kong. For more details, visit

South China Morning Post is a media partner of She Objects