FOURTH WAVE. Feminism has come a long way in a century. Through successive waves of urgency and activism, indifference and apathy, women have broached the subject of gender equality in a jumble of ways.

Hazel Colditz, a local artist and mother of two teenage daughters, has navigated those waves and their complexities in a new documentary that peers into the lives of young women to see what teen girls think of the "F" word (feminism, not that other "F" word).

"The impetus for The Integration of She was my curiosity about girls' relationship to feminism. Was it stagnant? Was it passive? Was it regressing? My daughters would gather their friends at slumber parties, and I began listening in and asking them questions. Finally, I decided I had to document their responses," says Colditz at the Access Tucson studios, where she learned production skills for piecing together her first documentary.

"It went from feminism to just life issues in general," she explains about her eventual project and its theme.

"I went in expecting that it was going to be really difficult to hear truths from the girls. I didn't want them to answer questions the way they thought they should. I wanted it to come from their gut. The candidness was amazing," adds Colditz.

She interviewed 50 young women ranging in age from 14 to 19. About 20 show up in the non-narrated film--a sampler of Tucson's teens' experiences and thoughts about topics such as spirituality, self-esteem, truth and happiness.

"It's really interesting. They have more choices than we did," says the 43-year-old documentary-maker. "But, it seems, they have less freedom. It's complex and scary. You can see how very wise they are but you can still feel their innocence."

Two participants in the film were Mariko Burton--Colditz' 19-year-old daughter--and Sasha Herbert, who's 17. Both Sasha and Mariko are enrolled at Pima Community College to hone their burgeoning art skills. Their images are included in an exhibit in the Access Tucson lobby that features emerging artists in the community. Mariko's silkscreen images reveal characters with Japanese animé influences, while Sasha's black-and-white photographs are dreamy and ghost-like self-portraits.

"It's been really therapeutic for me to produce them," says Sasha. "It's nerve-wracking that my feelings are out on display--basically having my insides all over the wall. But, I want to share it with people."

For Mariko, her images are also self-portraits. "Since I was 12, I've been drawing mainly female characters who look like me--seeing myself in different ways, different outfits, half-animal or half-girl creatures. It's more cartoon-like, not too emotional."

Like many of the young women in The Integration of She, Mariko and Sasha are confident in their roles as women, but they reflect a generational twist on their relationship with feminism.

"I don't really like the word," quips Mariko. "It seems like a crutch for women to use against men. People should be treated equally, whether you're male or female."

Adds Colditz, "For this generation, the categorization is something they don't want. One girl I interviewed was actually offended at some of the questions. But interestingly, she has healthier relationships with girls, because they respect her. She doesn't have that yet with boys. All the girls made it clear that it's not about victimization."

To avoid the adolescent insecurities the girls still feel about themselves, Colditz shot the film using close-ups of their faces only.

"I didn't want people viewing it to judge what they were wearing or what their body shape was, because teen girls are so self-conscious about those two things."

The documentary explores a handful of interrelated questions, rather than delving into the stories of the girls' lives. Some of the young women respond predictably--there's both idealism and contrariness. But asking a 16-year-old if she's happy is not something most interviewers would think to bring up.

"My happiness levels are like a roller coaster. I have so much energy to do stuff. Other times, I don't leave my room," says Sasha, revealing what it's like to be 17 and on her own.

Were there any concerns for Colditz hearing such intimate answers from her interviewees?

"Each one shocked me in some way--what they said didn't always jibe with how they said it. Kristen really stands out for me. She talks about her struggles with manic depression. But she also talks about the lack of mentors for girls like her. A lot of these girls are basically raising themselves."

The Integration of She, produced by Hazel Colditz, airs at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24, on Cox and Comcast cable channel 73. The images of Sasha Herbert and Mariko Burton can be seen in the Access Tucson lobby at 124 E. Broadway Blvd. until Nov. 29. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

For details, call 624-9833.

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