Sisterhood Blog

Filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler Sees Satire in Rape

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Patrick Gookin
Filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler in her short film, “Meet My Rapist.”

Filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler, known for her comic spiritual YouTube adventure “Dude, Where’s My Chutzpah?” has a new video out, and viewers don’t know quite what to make of it.

It’s called “Meet My Rapist.”

The short satirical film is a response to Kahnweiler’s own rape, which occurred almost eight years ago, when she was 20 years old and studying abroad in Vietnam. In the video, Kahnweiler plays herself. After she runs into her rapist at the farmer’s market, she can’t shake him. He appears to be following her — more like, haunting her — everywhere she goes: on a job interview, on a run with a friend, to dinner with her parents, to her psychotherapy session. Kahnweiler feels she has to take cues from everyone else as to how to relate to her rapist. However, that changes by the end of the piece.

Kahnweiler spoke with the Sisterhood about the realization that catalyzed her to make the video, her use of satire in dealing with the subject of rape, and how “Meet My Rapist” relates to her understanding of herself as a young Jewish artist.

THE SISTERHOOD: I understand that you made the decision to make this film after something that happened to you this summer. Can you tell us about that?

JESSIE KAHNWEILER: I was visiting some friends in New York City in July and I was at a really nice club. I was dancing and this dude just slapped me on the ass. And I was like, “Uh, that reminds me of the time I got raped.” I didn’t even think about it when I was saying it; it just kind of came out… The look on the guy’s face! He kind of freaked out and ran away. Everyone was kind of laughing about it a little bit, but the next day I realized that that moment was going to lead to a film.

What exactly did you realize?

When you go through something like that, a huge trauma, there’s a side of you that’s, “Oh, that was really horrible and it happened to me.” But for me there was a bigger side: “I want to be strong and get through this. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. I’m a strong woman I’m a feminist, I can take this.” I really stepped into that role of not wanting to be a victim, not wanting to be hurt or affected by this horrible thing that happened.

And then with that moment in New York, I realized I’m not really over what happened to me. As much as I can say that I am, and that I’m stronger for it, I really didn’t allow myself figure out how I felt about it. And for me, I had to make a movie and figure it out.

How did you handle things immediately after the rape? Did you seek out psychotherapy or other support?

I really did everything right. I’m a good Jewish girl — I went right to therapy. I told my parents about it. I came back and was very vocal about it, and talked about it with my friends and told every single one of my ex-boyfriends about it. But in doing that, I would automatically think about how the other person would react and kind of skipped over how I was feeling about it. It was also part of my stand-up act for a while. I was really carrying this thing around… Anything I could do to move through it and convince myself that I had moved on.

What do you say to people who question your use of humor or satire in dealing with the subject of rape?

It comes form a very personal place. The satirical element couldn’t be more genuine. This is the lens through which I see the world. By no means am I saying that rape is funny. I am saying, as a victim of rape, that this is the lens of my experience.

In my life, I use humor to cope. When I look at situations, relationships and experiences, I tend to find the humor in it all. It wasn’t like I wanted to make a comedy. I just started writing, and this is how I saw this experience. For me, humor is truth. This is the truth of my experience. This isn’t me trying to get a laugh. Trust me, if I wanted to make a comedy about rape. You would know. It would be crazy, whereas this is real. I don’t want to know what a comedy about rape would be.

What, in essence, are you trying to say with this short film?

I think it’s all about freedom — freedom from denial of experiences and memories inside yourself, and freedom from thinking you have to feel a certain way about experiences in your life. I was really hiding behind this idea of the proper way to get over rape… It doesn’t go according to plan… It’s up to me to define my truth about it.

What kinds of reactions are you getting to the video?

Rape is such a politicized issue. People are so opinionated about it. I can’t even tell you about the kinds of comments I’ve gotten. I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to heal. This is not the rape story. This is my rape story.

A lot of people are saying they don’t get it. People are saying they don’t know how to react to the video. I think that’s wonderful. I still don’t know how to react to getting raped. You have to open that dialogue. I’m really inspired by the Jewish giants whose shoulders I stand on. Comedy is a way to activate people and inspire people and open up a dialogue.

No one wants to talk about rape or watch a movie about rape. But guess what? It’s an issue — a huge issue. So, if we can’t talk about it, what does that say about our society? It’s happening. It’s continuing to happen. This is my response to it and I’m entitled to that.

How has your receiving a Six Points Fellowship for emerging Jewish artists affected you?

When somebody takes a shot on you like that, it’s such a rare thing. It’s really given me the confidence that fuels all of my projects now, including this one… I’ve never felt more Jewish in my life. I’m taking chances and expressing myself. If that isn’t Jewish, I don’t know what is.

Every time I get an email that says, “I’m a sexual abuse survivor. Thank you for making this film,” or when men thank me for making this film, I think: How is that not holy?

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: women, sisterhood, jessie kahnweiler, jewish women, film

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.