Successful women’s studies alumna supports female-led film

by Nicole Menges, Staff Writer

San Diego State alumna Deborah Carstens began her studies at San Diego State the same year the school began offering classes in women’s studies. Since then, her passion has revolved around supporting gender studies and feminist causes.  Recently, that passion has led her to become an investor in the film “Equity,” a female-led film about women on Wall Street.

Carstens began her college career at the height of second-wave feminism, when women such as Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were making news. Like most freshmen, Carstens did not know what she wanted to major in, but signed up for women’s studies classes the first semester they were offered. She began to meet people from around the country who felt the way she did about this new academic sect.  Carstens was even invited to Steinem’s 60th birthday party at her home in New York.

“For me to be able to take classes and learn the fundamentals of gender and culture and history, and also have it be topical in America’s news stream, it was fabulous for me,” Carstens said. “I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

In her lifetime, Carstens has pursued many interests and passions. She has traveled to all seven continents, is engaged in multiple philanthropies in her community and is a self-described “political junkie.” Her main passion, however, continues to lie with feminist causes and gender studies.

“As one becomes more affluent, and can spend money where (one chooses), one can see the power in that,” Carstens said.

Carstens chooses to use her money to enable and empower other women, which is something she learned to do through SDSU’s women’s studies classes. Essentially, this is how Carstens became an investor in “Equity.”

According to SDSU’s recent yearly Celluloid Ceiling report, women comprise 19 percent of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers working the top 250 domestic-grossing films of 2015.  “Equity” is working to change this discrepancy.  A female-led film at all levels, the production team is headed by female writers, directors, producers and actors. Carstens received a call from a close friend asking if she would be interested in investing in the film.

“I said, ‘I know nothing about motion pictures, but if it’s a total women-driven film, yes, I’m interested,’” Carstens said.

Doreen Mattingly, SDSU women’s studies department chair, has worked closely with Carstens in the past.

“We’ve all heard of sexism and racism in Hollywood, and I’m proud to be associated with a donor who understands that one way to change it is by investing in movies that give women a chance,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly also noted just because a film includes a lot of women doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being depicted in a way that is empowering toward women. However, Mattingly believes Carstens investment in the film speaks positively for the way it will depict women.

“The fact that Deborah’s involved in the film makes me want to go see it, because I know her values,” Mattingly said.

Carstens is one of SDSU’s many successful alumni. In 2004, she was recognized by the College of Arts and Letters and received their Distinguished Alumni award.

“I think that part of my secret to success is meeting a wide array of people around the world in different cultures and countries,” Carstens said. “It’s helped me understand how the world works, what’s important to people and how to apply that to myself.”