Graduate students post comments.
I had a hard time reading the Doane article, primarily because it was too long. I did get a chance to read “One is Not Born a Woman.” I agree with the fact this this article was extreme. I was offended that for every time she mentioned the word “feminist” the automatic assumption was that a feminist can only be a woman and that she is a pre-determined lesbian. Rarely does she give credit to a feminist for being heterosexual or that as a lesbian feminist you may only be classified as a the scholar. Men in this article are automatically assumed to be the centerfold for all female problems and their downfall. I especially hated how she used slavery as an example to justify race and the overall treatment of women- men, in this article are the slave masters. A man did not just own slaves, so did women. She quickly mentions societal standards that a woman is at fault for our downfall if she stays home and raises the children, because the man says so. Wittig is trying to make feminist theory sound powerful, but she is only leaving negativity.
Also, some women and men have the choice to be stay-at-home parents, but I agree in this day of age, both parents have to work to make ends meet. This article was written in the 1980s. I was born in 1985, a time when my parents both had to work to pay the mortgage and have a nice roof over their heads. I would have liked to have had one of my parents stay at home, just so that I could know one of them better. As a result today, I love my parents, but at times, I feel detached from them because I don’t know them personally or what it was like for them growing up. Now, being that both parents worked, that didn’t make me feel more dependent on them, in fact just the opposite. As a result, I am a very take-charge person that doesn’t need to rely on others to get the job done when I can just do it myself.
I will say, however, leading back to the discussion in class, my mother was one of eleven children and the eldest sibling in her (Catholic) family. My grandmother was very hard on her when she was younger and she would often call her fat and said that she was too breathy when she sang. To me, my mom is a beautiful person inside and out and she has a beautiful voice. Perhaps my grandmother is one of the mothers that regretted being home and maybe she too wanted a different life.
Lastly, just my thoughts on feminism. I identify as a feminist, but not the stereotypical type that is a lesbian or has radical protests, or is about women power. Simply put, as an artist, I refuse to have anything to do with the nude, figurative body. In art, as well as other mediums, the human figure is too over-sexualized. So, I detest pornography- anything demeaning to women. If my husband and I rent or buy a movie with nudity, we try to avoid purchasing these types of movies or we fast forward through the nude scenes. These are things that I adhere to as a feminist- yes, there are those that are for or against pornography, but they still remain feminists. I will say, that I was very uncomfortable with the class showing nudity- such as Skinz. I found that whole show to be offensive.
While reading Doane’s Veiling Over Desire and her analysis of the female as an object of spectacle I was reminded of Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.” It is interesting to note Doane’s inspection of the star system and its reliance on female beauty and simultaneous muteness of power except to seduce.
Contrary to this typical portrayal of the female as a thing to be looked at, Kidman’s character abandons her A-list beauty in the film to become an intellectually mighty character. This is however problematized in the fact that the character is doomed. It is almost as though this film which could be viewed as highly feminist, predestines its highly evolved powerful female characters to be plagued with sadness. This of course could be due to the patriarchy in which these characters must reside, but it would be useful and engaging to create a film which demonstrates the joy and liberation a feminist character can achieve.
Reading through the 2 comments above me, I completely agree with Kerra Taylors comments on Wittigs article. It made me really angry; femininity exists due to masculinity, and vice versa, so I really find it flawed that Wittig implies that males are the reason for all females problems within society. The article was too one-sided, and whilst I understand that she was trying to demonstrate her idea to the reader, not once did she look at any arguements to oppose hers.
Before starting this class, having absolutely no prior education about feminism, I was concerned that I was going to be in a class surrounded by individuals with opinions much like Wittigs. Feminism can sometimes find itself being mocked due to the extremety of individuals like Wittig. When I mention to people what my classes are, people come out with remarks not disimilar to Wittigs assumption that males are to ‘blame’ for female problems within society, and how one-sided this opinion is. Whilst I understand that this article is a very extreme example, I think it is essential for it to be clearly labelled as such, to avoid individuals who do not have understanding of the complexities of gender relations in society, assuming that feminism is what Wittig suggests it is. Whilst I understand the individuals making these remarks haven’t necesarrily taken classes in gender studies/ feminism, etc. I think it is really disappointing that such an important aspect of how society and the media functions can find it self to be labelled.
My favorite reading this week was the one by Marta Zarzycka, which talked about the work of Cindy Sherman. It was particularly interesting to read after reading the article entitled Feminism, by Susan Hekman, which gave an overall explanation of the different stages of feminism and how each was built on the one that came before. One of these stages involves postmodernism and feminism, which, according to Zarzycka, is where the work of Cindy Sherman is centered. Hekman explains that the main concern of postmodernist feminism is to show that the identity of a person as a “woman” is fiction, and that the idea of someone being male or female is nothing but a construction. This becomes evident when one looks at Sherman’s work and at the way she carefully constructs and deconstructs all of these identities that we inherently perceive as “female”. Sherman cannot only make herself resemble any “type” of woman, she also has pictures where she dresses up as a man. The fact that she is able to do this with such ease shows us how how these types of images have been constructed by society for so many years.
Two readings that I think will be useful for my research later on were Veiling Over Desire and An Amorous History of the Silver Screen. Although I found parts of the more challenging to read, I think they give a good idea of how the image of women is constructed in the history of film. They do this by analyzing things like close-up shots or the accessories the actresses might be wearing and showing us where these forms of representing women come from originally. I found it very helpful to see how they break this up into parts and how they apply it in their analyses of certain films and even individual shots.
I was excited about this week’s topic because one of my research interests is feminist film studies. I found Lana Rakow’s article on the margialization of women within popular culture interesting, especially the part where she talks about the Recovery and Reappraisal Approach. Before, I became interested in focusing on neo-liberalization and contemporary Hindi cinema for my doctoral research I wanted to study the contribution of women in early Hindi cinema. There are a considerable number of women who worked in the initial days of Hindi cinema, but unfortunately their names are not part of the “official” historical records, which are dominated by men.
I especially wanted to look at the contribution of one woman – Jaddanbai – who worked in the Hindi film industry in the 1930s. She was a director, producer, music composer and singer and made several films during her time. Sadly, those films have not survived and although Jaddanbai is regarded as the “first woman director” in Hindi cinema, there is no scholarly account about her life and works. On the other hand there is copious literature available on the men who worked at the same time. I agree with Rakow when she says that culture devalues and ignores women’s contribution solely because most of the artistic canons are established by men.
Reading Susan Hekman’s article on “Feminism” made me think about how the term is understood these days in popular discourse. Somehow, feminism has become a bad word, and most people have the image of a man-hating, unreasonable, vitriolic woman in their minds when they think of feminism. I’m not sure why this image of feminism has taken over popular consciousness, but it does not do any good to the causes that feminists and feminist ideology in general embraces. Feminism is not outdated because discrimination against women is a reality even today and sexism exists everywhere.
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