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Narractives and Structures of Feminism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3553 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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‘It is no longer possible to talk about feminism – one should really speak of feminisms.’ Discuss with reference the feminist approaches to narrative.

Introduction – 250

Feminisms is a founded organisation by Wilhelmina Drucker who was born in 1847, she not only advoked equal suffrage for men and women, but equal rights in every social domain (2016.) The meaning behind feminism is the belief that we all deserve equal rights to respect, social rights and all opportunities (Eric. P, 2018) in today’s society. Drucker was a Politian who died in the 1900s as a writer and peace activists who fought for the equal rights of women through politics and feminist organisations. Throughout this essay I am going to be discussing the feminism approaches to narrative through the use of theories and research. I am going to be comparing my research to the film Clueless (1995,) which is a romantic comedy about females’ friendships, sexuality and it puts woman’s self – fulfilment above finding a man (Janes, 2018.) ‘It is no longer possible to talk about feminism – one should really speak of feminism’ is a quote founded by the #MeToo campaign, which is an organisation that began October 2017, that listens to stories about abuse and harassment in the media. Throughout the growth of media, women are shown to be seen as objects as a women’s desire is subjected her image (Mulvey, p.7.) Feminists criticise a patriarchal society – which means a society created by men. It is a system where men are in authority over women in all aspects of society. In modern day society it is not as accepted as it once was, due to women fighting for equal rights since the 1700s.

Verse 1 – The history of feminism – 250

First wave feminism is known as The Suffrage Movement which was labelled in the 1800s where women were controlled over every aspect of their lives. Emily Davison (1872 – 1913) is a woman suffragette who fought for the women’s rights in Britain by joining the Women’s Social and Political Union formed by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903. Throughout Davidsons lifetime she was arrested over five times for fighting against the law for women’s rights and being arrested never stop her from trying. This continued for over 10 years before a fatal injury at the Derby in 1913, where Davison ran on to the race course at the last bend to take down King Georges horse. Davidson was taken straight to hospital where they operated on her two days later, unfortunately she never gained consciousness. Emily is just one of females who have fought for the rights of women over the last few centuries and has helped to create the society we live in today.

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In a TED TALK called ‘Everybody should be a feminist they talk about post feminism and how quality has been achieved. Through the hard work of the young women, working towards an equal future, the society we now live in believes that we live in a near to equal society. TED TALKS argue that the only difference is the pay gap. For many actors and directors, the pay difference between men has been a problem. Jennifer Lawrence stated that as a result of the Sony hack, she made less money than male co-stars. The second wave happened between 1960s-1980s, this movements was called Broadening the Debate – this is after the devastation of World War 2 where feminists concentrated on equality in the workplace, sexuality and reproduction rights (D. Stein, 2018). Through these years’ women did not see their voices as important and the second wave movement was to address these concerns to strengthen their voices.

In the 1965, the musical ‘The Sound of Music’ has a strong female, leading role that contained many feminist messages. Maria, throughout the movie, breaks her rules as she wants to have fun with the children and teach them her own ways (Koerner, 2015.) Throughout the 60s, more women than ever were joining a paid workforce, disregarding harassment at the workplace (Walsh, 2010.) So, when Maria sings ‘I have confidence,’ it says a lot as she has a passion to challenge the social ‘norms’ and be who she wants to be. In comparison, West Side Story (1961) is a musical where women were fought over by men. Although it involves two strong women who were not afraid to speak their minds (Kearns, 2012) the men are dominant and forceful, using sexual assault as an act of power. These are examples of how women are betrayed in the 1960s, both films showing women as being independent, but men are over powering in the society. Both movies are shown as liberal feminism as they show their ability to stick up for themselves and what they believe in, as liberal feminist argue how society holds false norms of women being physically uncapable of living up to men.


Verse 2 – Clueless & 3rd wave feminist – 400 words

Clueless (1995) is an American comedy about a superficial, young girl who is popular at High School in Beverly Hills. Instead of being your typical airhead, Chers famous line ‘as if’ is just the start of how she is not like any other girl at High School. Although she has the looks and the money, this film is one of few in the 90s where she is challenging female norms, by concentrating on her education and friendships instead of on men. Comparing it to the movie Mean Girls (2004,) Kady concentrates on ‘fitting in’ to the popular group at High School, where Regina George is all about impressing boys. While Cher helps her friend Tai with her appearance and personality to impress a boy out of kindness, Regina does it to Kady out of spite to embarrass her and make herself feel better. In an interview with Manufacturing Intellect (1996) the director of Clueless, Amy Heckerling is known for being one of the ‘mainstream top line female directors’ as her movie includes different film theory and reinforces different female stereotypes. Clueless centres its theme around female friendships, which are a crucial part of the whole film as it is completely different to any other.

Robin Lakoffs (1975) 10 elements of language is an analysis of how women speak and how they are spoken about, the first element being hedging. This is how a male is putting down a woman for their opinion by the female using half answers such as ‘sort of, maybe, etc.’ In Clueless this is the opposite, as Dionna Cher’s best friends speaks to her boyfriend as the dominant character at the beginning of the movie. This is a good start to the film as already the audience knows who is in control and how the director is not focusing on the male gaze. Whereas in Mean Girls, Kady uses short cut answers to swerve away from conversations with the boy she likes. These films are comparisons of feminism and the way woman treat woman. This movie involves radical feminism due to their society being patriarchal as the women’s wants and needs are met by being with a man. Radical feminism is when men dominate, for example the main male character Aaron Samuels seems to run the school and all the females bow down to being with him so they are disagreeing with the way Mean Girls portray themselves. A critique of this theory is Mary Talbot as she believes there is no evidence to support Lakoffs theory as these are just assumptions made about gender. Talbot believes that in order to maintain this order certain ‘norms’ about female behaviour are viewed negatively when it is measured against masculine ‘norms’ (Rusling, 2010.) The feminist theory is how we look at the social world as being full of gender inequality and focuses on the power of male and females. Although men and women think differently (Chafetz, 1997) this links back to Lakoffs theory of language as it is a way of thinking of the social rights of women, whether that is sexual or as property.

Verse 3 – The Male & Female gaze

The ‘Male Gaze’ is a term created by Laura Mulvey in 1975 as a feminist theorist. It is where male viewers are seen as the target audience and therefore their wants and needs before the opposite gender. This causes the audience to view the women from a heterosexual point of view and not their own. The ‘Female gaze’ is how women look at women as spoken about Laura Mulveys essay called ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975). It represents the male viewer but also the gaze of the male character and the male creator of the film. The ‘Female Gaze’ is known as a simple reverse of the ‘Male Gaze’, can be seen as an objectification of men (Jacobi, 2017.) The ‘Male Gaze’ operates in three different ways; the cameras point of view, the gaze of male figures in different films and how the spectator sees it. It is used to make the male the dominant character and to sexualise women throughout different films. Magic Mike is a good example of the reverse role of the ‘Male Gaze,’ instead of objectifying women, the director has sexualised men and it is a good step into the direction to focus on females’ pleasure (Brandts, 2017.) A theories names Peter Brooks believes that the “approach to narrative does not exist” and it is created in our own heads. Critiques of this theory say that men and women read books and react differently, there for there are natural binaries in today’s society (Fiske, 1987.) A feminist theory called Judith Butler believes that “sex is biologically founded, gender is socially constructed” (1990) meaning that we have a gender-neutral society that we have created ourselves. Directors are not always aware of the gaze and therefore we should make a space for active ‘Female Gaze’ to create new possibilities for cinema (Susmita, 2017.)

Verse 4 – 4th wave feminism – 200 words

Fourth wave feminism began in 2012 when social media became a big thing in our society where feminist concentrated on sexual harassment and violence against women. “It is defined by technology” (Cochrane, 2013) and heightened by social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where feminist support women by being body positive. The internet itself was a shift from the third wave to the fourth wave feminism and the internet has created a ‘call – out’ culture (Munro, 2018). The internet has now become a place for feminists to discuss the activism and work together, as social media has created a global community for women of all ages to fight for equal rights together from across the globe. Technology has given a voice to anyone with an internet connection (Zorka, 2014) and there are activists who criticise this movement and opportunity for women. Twitter, as a social media platform, is used by feminists to address their problems in a modern way. It is a space for anybody to share their opinions and emotions to an audience, where people with the same beliefs can retweet it and share it with their audience. It can also be a place to criticize, bully and debate what the belief, creating a system of content around the world.

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Twilight (2008-2012) is a movie about a young girl called Bella who falls in love with a vampire and although she is the main character Bella barely exists and lives behind her undead boyfriend throughout the whole movie and seems happy to do so. Critique Dale Parker (2017) says Bella has low self-esteem and is physically weak throughout all four films and despite being in love with a man who wants to kill, Bella does not worry about her own self love and happiness which already fails to show any good personality traits of a strong women in the fourth wave movement. She is seen as the “ideal women” as she is the centre of male attention which is seen as a weakness for women.

Verse 6 – #MeToo campaign – 200 words

The #MeToo campaign is a movement against sexual harassment and assault since 2017 and now more women are speaking up about their experiences (Lafuente, 2017.) Although this movement was only created in 2017, it has been around for over a decade due to Tarana Burke who is an activist among young women who is a survivor of sexual violence at the age of six. She said “violence is violence. Trauma is Trauma and we are taught to downplay it” and by creating this campaign it will help young women speak out to recover from what they have been through together. The hashtag is used as a support of women all around the world who have been assaulted, and men are no also using the hashtag to show support their own incidence too. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Sheryl Crow and Rachel Wood have tweeted the #MeToo to show they have been sexual harassed at some point in their lives and have spoken out to support the campaign. It has created a way for women to work together to create piece with what they have been through and help each other in our society today. Post feminism is used to describe how feminist reject traditional norms in society, especially in the 2nd and 3rd wave feminism. It is a theory that challenges the claims of a patriarchal society which links into the #MeToo campaign. Women are challenging their power in society and how they able to overcome the pain from their past. This is used in narrative as female roles are becoming more important to the film industry and our society.

Conclusion – My opinion, theories & critiques, cultural shift, this year female films, female directors that won something,

Feminism is a primary lens for analysing difference of power in the world (Russell and Carey, 2003) and throughout this assignment I have concentrated on how feminism is shown in narrative. In my opinion, the way females are portrayed has changed over the past century. Although my examples such as Twilight are presenting a female as being weak, the film industry has had a huge cultural shift. In the future, female actresses are beginning to stand up for themselves due to their difference in pay and society demanding that their be more female lead role thus making male and female roles in the industry female. In 2010, Barbra Steinsand presented the Oscars by saying “from the five gifted nominees, tonight this winner could be, for the first time, a woman.” This was a massive movement for the film industry as Kathryn Bigelow made Oscar history. This is an example of just one change in the gendered gap in narrative in our society slowly changing. Annihilation (2018) is a female lead film at the top of the ranker as the best female leading movies of 2018. This is showing a movement in society on how not only men can be leading characters in horror movies, where she is taking on a secret exhibition that ends up being dangerous. As you can see in the front cover, it is a photo of five females and one male out solving the mission. It is just a small representation of the cultural shift on how females are now being represented in todays narrative.




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