Monday, 24 September 2012

Femen: radical feminist protest movement

I raise this as a potentially useful concept to include in your consideration of representation issues. This is a feminist protest group that is using nudity to protest at the sexist, misogynistic patriarchy that they believe dominates global culture.

Its pertinent to analysis of music videos and slasher films as each feature near-nudity or nudity frequently, with artists such as Madonna, Rihanna and Lady Gaga clearly trading on their bodies and sexual appeal ... BUT claiming (as post-feminists would argue) to be strong women in control and expressing themselves, rather than victims of the male gaze. The slasher movie is often criticised for its wide use of female nudity, though these feminist campaigners are partly making the point that women have long been encouraged to feel ashamed of their bodies - can a seemingly sexist genre really be reclaimed as a positive expression of female liberation?!

The starkly contrasting ways in which traditional feminists and post-feminists (who believe that equality of the sexes has been achieved, so its outmoded to perceive women as victims of a male-dominated culture, or patriarchal society) read media texts is certainly something for you to consider when analysing your own work as well as existing media texts.

NB: the web page contains a topless image, so if you do follow the link take care not to do so in a school setting or around younger siblings. I've copied in the full article below so you needn't do so!

In a chaotic and crumbling former public washhouse in a rundown district of northern Paris, Inna Shevchenko was explaining how a large leather punchbag hanging from the rafters might be used by the foot soldiers of a new generation of feminists.
As she prepared to welcome recruits to the Ukrainian-based feminist group Femen's first "international training camp", it was clear that the instruction would not be all ideological. The talk was of "war", "soldiers", "terrorism" and "enemies". Was it not curious, one French journalist asked, that Inna and her warriors had adopted the language of combat, traditionally a male domain, to describe their mission?
Was it not also inconsistent, another asked, that the new feminists were using nakedness to rail against female exploitation? In a week that had seen the banning of photographs of a topless Duchess of Cambridge, it was certainly topical.
"Ah, but we have a different idea; we are talking about peaceful war, peaceful terrorism," Inna said. "We are taking off our clothes so people can see that we have no weapons except our bodies. It's a powerful way to fight in a man's world. We live with men's domination and this is the only way to provoke them, the only way to get attention.
"We don't hide our bodies, we don't hide our faces, we confront our enemies face to face. We look them in the eyes and we have to be well prepared physically for that."
There was, she explained patiently, no contradiction in going topless or naked to protest against what they view as the three main evils of a global "patriarchal society": sexual exploitation, dictatorship and religion. Protesting naked, as Femen's slogans insist, is liberté, a reappropriation of their own bodies as opposed to pornography or snatched photographs which are exploitation.
On a less intellectual level, taking their clothes off ensures a lot of publicity.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Teen girls in film: Heathers

The article below is lengthy and, at times, challenging, but contains useful points (from a certain feminist perspective) on a range of influential films featuring central female teen characters: Carrie + The Exorcist (70s); Pretty in Pink + The Breakfast Club (80s), Clueless + Legally Blond (90s/noughties), + Mean Girls. I'd add to this list the superb Canadian Indie Ginger Snaps, which makes for an interesting comparison with the more corporate, Hollywood-ised gloss of Twilight with its unsubtle religiously-inspired messages about female identity.

You may not agree with the views in the article below - there are many points I'd disagree with - but you will certainly find useful material to help contextualise your own work as filmmakers putting representations of gender on-screen, and reflecting (probably still quite unconsciously at this stage) contemporary ideas and ideologies in doing so.

Article URL:

Talking about bad girls

Michael Lehmann's 1988 masterpiece Heathers ushered in a new type of film, one in which schoolgirls were not simply one-dimensional caricatures, says Eva Wiseman
 The Observer,
Heathers film still
The Heathers gang: from left, Winona Ryder, Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk and Shannen Doherty. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Rex Features
  1. Heathers
  2. Production year: 1989
  3. Country: USA
  4. Cert (UK): 18
  5. Runtime: 102 mins
  6. Directors: Michael Lehmann
  7. Cast: Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Winona Ryder
  8. More on this film
Girlhood is a horrid thing, a time awash with sebum, diaries read out loud and all your friends a desirable nine out of 10 to your un-gorgeous six. Lunch hours spent with your arms folded to mock up a cleavage and notes in the margin of a GCSE poetry textbook that, in the dim light of your parents' TV, take on such meaning, such teenage magnitude, that you're tearful by teatime.
The years before you leave home are largely nightmarish, or at least, through the haze of alcopops and hormones, for many of us they seemed that way. I never really knew the girls who were having the times of their lives - they moved faster. They got the boys they wanted, they learned to manage and maintain all the embarrassments of puberty within a single half-term. But one thing they never "got" the way we did, with our lank hair and uneven skin tone, were certain films. Heathers (the 1988 murder comedy starring 16-year-old Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer, a breakaway member of a popular girl gang), with its poisoned cheerleaders and vision of high school as a Technicolor battleground, spoke to us, the girls who didn't quite fit in.
The teenage girl on film, says Kate Random Love, a feminist theorist, "is a wonderful barometer for measuring a culture's fantasies and anxieties about femininity at the time. For example, it's surely no coincidence that in the 1970s - the decade that began with the second wave of feminist uprisings - the most notable representations of female adolescence were in horror films such as The Exorcist and Carrie. Femininity itself became a monstrous force rising up with the potential to destroy everything." In the 1980s, the teenage girl on film (Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club) was obsessed with cash; in the 1990s and early 2000s she was a beacon of spiritual development (Clueless, Legally Blonde) and dangerous sexuality (But I'm a Cheerleader, Boys Don't Cry). "Since then, teen girls in film have become more complex and less one-dimensional, and invite a much more ambivalent response from the viewer - in Mean Girls [2004] we spend a lot of our time actually hating Cady Heron, the main protagonist," says Random Love.