The series of readings under Gender and History are interesting. The different articles illustrate the significant role of history in inserting what has been hidden and also re-interpreting what has previously been presumed to be ‘true’. Arguments in the readings are made using various perspectives such as life histories, post structuralism and other approaches. I also note the interesting story of White Buffalo Woman and the story’s contribution to the “reservation history of the southern Cheyennes” and that of Indian people in America (p.294). There is also Mrs Weldon’s story of how she escaped her husband’s psychiatric medicine. But first, we are introduced to how women’s history has been approached and written. Particular attention is paid to the historical feminine identities and theoretical positions used to understand issues of gender and femininity.
Then Hall (1999) with an interest in the middle class issues argues that feminist history has been about studying down rather than studying up, resulting in an imbalance in historiography. Hall’s central argument is about the division of genders (women and men) and between the public and private spheres and how these relate to class formation. The author does a good job of arguing that economically, men were seen to be independent while women depended on the men. Further, in the realm politics and the social public worlds, women did not feature.
The article Postcolonial Perspectives raises familiar issues and reconfirms my views about the disruption caused by colonialism and imperialism on the African continent. I especially find it frustrating when former colonizers (who continue to colonize African minds) and imperialists (with their sustained actions of exploiting the African continent’s resources) defend and justify their actions. The book The Shackled Continent: Power, Corruption, and African Lives by Robert Guest comes to mind. In this book, Guest writes that Africans benefited from colonization. But, if we use a postcolonial perspective we get to review and question such dominant assumptions of a colonial savior. However, this article, Postcolonial Perspectives fail to problematize ongoing and historical internal economic imbalances in countries where White is an embodiment of wealth while Black is a symbolism for poverty and corruption. Yet, the article on Post-Structuralism/Postmodernism reminds me of the complexities associated with history – history is a representation with different interpretations that require attentiveness to issues of power. How does access to power or privilege affect my researcher’s positions? As researchers we have to be constantly aware of the issues of historical power as we navigate through research. An aside but related issue – I wish to mention just for the record that I disagree that “all of history is a fiction.”
Interestingly, the article by Bean (2002) echoes issues raised in the two pieces I refer to above. However, this author looks at the history of film feminism. She calls for a rethinking of phrases such as early cinema and a scrutiny of focus that shifts from just being about the past. As such, she argues that studies of early cinema should be informed by current realities and transformations in cinema in the past decades.
In conclusion, I will draw upon this week’s readings especially the first lot of readings under Gender and History in my final paper for this class. After reading the series I have decided to look into gender representation in the period 1970 and 1975 at a US student run radio station. In part, I want to investigate the visibility/inclusion of female students and the role they performed within the station. Contextually, the 70s in the US is a period when issues of gender imbalance were not just topical but were also being contested.
In Comic Book Masculinity, the author explains the masculine bodies of comic superheroes and specifically black superheroes and how they fit into the equation of American culture based on previous perceptions of masculinity. He takes a closer look at the differences between masculinity and femininity as viewed in Western culture by indicating that masculinity is merely white masculinity which is a fascist ideology. His research is based on a comic book company called Milestone which provides a different perspective of masculinity than the hyper-mediated masculinity that we see in other comic books and media outlets. He examines how Milestone comics have incorporated concepts of softness with hardness and mind with body instead of relying and using the same old masculine hyper-mediated conceptions and creating a new qualities within the structures of dominant masculinity.
The Hour of The Cuckoo is an interesting article about the role of women in British cinema from its early developmental stages. The author cites feminine dramatic intensity as the distinguishing aspect of a female in films. The role of the female in British cinema is precise because of the feminist cultural politics of British cinema. As some films were somehow considered under the “other” umbrella because of political structures within institutions that produced these films in Britan. The author does an exceptional job looking at the landscape of British cinema in relation to feminism by putting each era in its social context. Also, indicating that there are specific characteristics that tend to appear in every film as if they were required to do so.
I thought this week’s articles were interesting since they related to my field of study. The comic masculinity article can be a good literature review to what I plan on doing with my research project since it gives another perspective on how masculinity is transforming through new media outlets and how audiences perceive it. The way younger generations are realizing hyper-mediated masculinity is an interesting aspect of the research because it indicates that finally there is awareness from the audience on the issues that we analyze. Also, since my research topic is based on films, it is good to keep in mind what others have said about the issues of masculinity presented in other media forms and whether there is a distinction between them or not. Since Hollywood are now in the business of turning comic books into feature films its interesting to see if these masculinity representations are also being directly translated from the comic to the screen.
The history of gender cannot be separated from the feminist movement, especially that, as Green & Troup stated (p.253), gender history has “mainly written from woman-centered perspective.” Though feminist movement original intent was to give women the right to vote and some job gains, which inspired by the civil rights movement, it moved with its second and third waves into more controversial zones, such as sexuality, pornography, reproductive, custody and divorce law.
Yet, no doubt that the feminist movement has shaken the gender debate and reformed the manner of thinking about masculinity and femininity. The first reading for this week emphasizes the role of feminism in modifying many historical narratives related to class and sexuality.
In her article about gender divisions and class formation in the Birmingham middle class (1788-1850), Catherine Hall, through a Marxist approach, uses public/private dichotomy as an analytical tool to emphasize the strong connection between gender and class (p. 260). She argues that the dichotomy has held woman in a second-class by pushing her out of the public sphere (p.263).
The use of the public/private dichotomy here makes me thinking about using it to analyze the private screening/public screening spaces in Saudi society. It could help me response to the argument regarding the relevancy of cinema nowadays amid of digital environment and declining of theaters’ attendance. The theaters in Saudi Arabia, before the ban, were not just a screening location; they were an escape, for men and women alike, and a gate to social life in a public sphere. In addition, this dichotomy might be helpful to tackle the segregation between the private/female and public/male in Saudi Society.
The introduction of Bean and Negra’s Feminist Reader in Early Cinema discusses the feminist methodology in which some contemporary historians have studied early cinema (p. 5). This rethinking about early cinema challenges traditional feminist film theory that relies heavily on classical Hollywood representation of woman as a “not-man.” Still, Hollywood’s representation then was resulting of collective tradition regarding gender classification and women role in the society.
Finally, I can see some resemblance between the nature of gender in the society and the performativity in films. An actor can perform a fictional character, and a director can resurrect a dead man through visual effects manipulation. Gender could be, in this case, just a performance, especially if we agree that no one is a hundred percent masculine or feminine. To illustrate, man could be mostly masculine and less feminine, but he can perform masculinity in the feminine portion. There is an act of performance in everyone.
Historical approaches to gender fascinate me. Discourses on feminism and queer theory typically fuel a revisionist approach to herstory. My problem with this week’s readings were that I felt the feminist historical discourses did not push the potential historical readings far enough. In “The hour of the Cuckoo,” Melanie Williams and Melanie Bell tackle the history of the woman’s film in British cinema, but the woman they are discussing is an extremely narrow definition. I would like to see these discourses expand to include bodies of color and lesbians. This article was published in 2010, which seems extremely late to just begin to establish a serious critical study of British women’s films. The fact that it has not previously been investigated is surprising, but also affirming that there is a great deal of work remaining to be done. The Melanies do an excellent job establishing the landscape for the British women’s film, I would like to see more work that speak to present-day realities of demographics of women and their role in cinemas.
Comic book masculinities was an enjoyable article that explores masculine bodies in American comic books, specifically black bodies, and how these fit into the overall discourse on American masculinity. His research focuses on the Milestone comic book company which is known for creating comics with central black male characters like Static Shock. I liked his approach to historical writing and thought the article was well thought and argued, if a little dated now.
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