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Feminism Material - 3 Interesting Articles That Prompt Gender Equality Discussion

Updated on December 26, 2014

All Things Being Equal

In The Feminist Spectator as Critic, Jill Dolan concisely defines feminism as "a critique of male ideology, formed in light of a will to change it." As keystone modernist feminism texts approach a century in age, it behooves those interested in continuing to disseminate feminist ideals in an arresting and engaging way. Based on this premise, the following sites offer application of feminist criticism in an array of popular mediums, offering potential students of feminist or gender studies innovative prompts for spurring discussion on gender equality.

5 Year Old Girl Discusses Princess Leia's Slave Outfit with Dad

5 Year Old Girl Discusses Princess Leia's Slave Outfit with Dad

Besides the hilarity of watching a doting father age ten years in the span of two minutes, the above sequence underscores an important observation regarding feminist criticism; that imposed gender norms are rarely a product of intuition. Comedian Adam Buxton here adapts a conversation with his young daughter regarding the iconic "Slave Leia" costume worn by Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The costume, a revealing faux metal bikini described by Wired Magazine's Philip Chien as a fixture for the "sweaty subconscious of fan boys" exemplifies to many the quintessence of "male gaze" in popular culture. In the above exchange, Buxton's daughter proclaims her adoration for the infamous costume, even stressing that if cast in the role of Leia Organa, she would continue to wear the outfit after her liberation from Jabba the Hut's Sail Barge.

Discussion Point: Gender norms are often imposed upon girls and boys from an early age. Based on this premise, is the young girl in this sequence conforming to or perturbing culturally enforced gender norms? More importantly, does Buxton have the justification to actively dissuade his daughter's enthusiasm based on prevailing demeaning attitudes towards the aforementioned costume? Answering these questions may yield striking observations regarding the limits of feminist criticism in formative education.

She's In Good Hands

If a picture is worth a thousand words then the above photo of a small girl surrounded by her older brothers and father (armed with a pump shotgun) will doubtless spur opinions on the objectification of females in traditional families. When students of feminist criticism refer to "male gaze," they typically allude to depicting female bodies exclusively as sexual objects. This casual reading neglects that pedestals can as much objectify women as any gutter. In this respect, the above photo, which features each brother holding a sign reading (successively oldest to youngest) "Mess with her and you go through me ..." "and me ..." "and me!" demonstrates that even at a young age, the female toddler in question has been defined by what can or cannot be done to her instead of what she can do herself. Even more provocative are the diverse comments inspired by the picture:

I know this is supposed to be cute, but tying a person's (or family's) worth to their "purity" is insulting, as it negates their intelligence, character, etc etc, and also just generally a really really bad idea and recipe for disaster.

Who said anything about purity? I took it as "Anyone who even thinks of bullying her, making fun of her, breaking her heart, or hurting her, know that we aren't going to stand for it."

If the dad was to make as big a deal of protecting his sons as he is his daughter, the boys would get bullied for running to daddy. If he didn't make such a big deal about protecting the daughter, she'd be made extremely vulnerable within that society. Setting up a similar image with the genders reversed would result in the lone male getting mercilessly bullied by other males within that culture.

I'm from the south, and very few people think women need protecting here. We're all taught to protect ourselves. We're tough as nails. I don't know where everyone gets the idea that we're delicate damsels living in a backward nightmare. I know you weren't exactly saying that, just adding my two cents.

Discussion Point: Where does one draw the line between familial loyalty and toxic gender stamping? Do good intentions necessarily produce worthwhile results in relation to gender roles? What makes dissecting the photo at once challenging and fascinating is the clear affection the pictured males have for the youngest family member. Particularly intense conversations regarding the photo will naturally articulate the distinction between undesirable gender norms and the sincere tenderness that may create such circumstances.

Ms. Male Character: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

Ms. Male Character: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

Anita Sarkeesian seems to directly address her critics with the following preface: " ... It's important to keep in mind that it's entirely possible to be critical of some aspects of a piece of media while still finding other parts valuable or enjoyable." With this observation, Sarkeesian attempts to arrest the larger discussion of feminist criticism and popular media from those that would deem arguments concerning gender norms a mere "stamp of approval." The Kickstarter funded program continues by providing a survey of female depictions in popular arcade and console games. At times, Sarkeesian footnotes her presentation to comment on the sometimes regressive or biased attitudes of designers and consumers in relation to female identity in video game culture. This analysis culminates in coining the term "Ms. Male Character," a distaff gender makeover used to at once feminize male roles and stereotype female identity.

Discussion Point: As Sarkeesian says, isolated stereotypes can seem unimportant or silly to devoted gamers. Taken together, however, such derivative biases can and do perpetuate harmful and systemic gender norms. Viewers of Feminist Frequency's program (especially audiences with an intuitive admiration of video games) will doubtless apprehend new perspective on their hobby by encountering a comprehensive dissection of gender roles in popular media.

He Said/She Said

Know any other online resources for substantiating the need for studying feminist criticism? I look forward to your comments and thank you in advance for any kind words. Check out my other Hub Pages for additional suggestions for navigating college assignments by working smart instead of merely working hard.


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    • Niko Linni profile image

      Niko Linni 

      4 years ago from Long Beach, California

      I would be very cautious of Anita if you're going to be looking into feminist stuff - she's known to make errors (some even say intentional errors, but that's up for debate) on what she knows on games, and some gamers have caught her intentionally playing a game a certain way in order to paint it in a negative light. A good example is the "Women as Background Decoration" video where she has Agent 47 (in Hitman) kill two strippers and stuff their body in a box while claiming games like Hitman serve to depower and make fun of women. Keep an eye out though - she gets penalized in game for doing this. Not to mention that in-character wise 47 NEVER kills anyone unless he has to. Which is either because the person(s) was a witness (you're supposed to sneak past the girls) or they're attacking him. Then there's also how she conspicuously left out Sabre when she discusses Dinosaur Planet in the first episode.

      Also note - I'm not on the "I hate Anita because how dare she critisize my games!" bandwagon. I actually went into TvW with an open mind thinking it'd be a really good discussion, when in reality some of these errors make it difficult for me to take Sarkeesian's series seriously. I do like the Discussion Point you highlighted though - do games as a whole perpetuate and enforce gender roles? And are gender roles fine to show in any media? For instance - what if you have a civlization emulating the 1950s - complete with Nuclear Family? Would that be a negative thing, or would it all depend on the light that it's being presented in? What if it wasn't presented in a negative light, but say elsewhere in the series women were shown in other roles besides the traditional Nuclear Family mother?


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