Screening Feminisms: Approaches for Teaching Sex and Gender in Film

Felicity Colman, Erin Stapleton

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


In teaching feminist film studies for both practice-based and theoretical courses, engaging the student body in a critical politics of responsibility provides a useful entry into studies of feminism, diversity, and equity issues. As educators, we have to ask what we can do in concrete terms to address the gender and diversity inequities in the world without creating a competing grand narrative subscribing to the neoliberalist discourses of economic and ideologic “mastery”, but instead by exploring different ways to conceive of the world together. 1 This can be taught through all areas of screen analysis: through cognizance of the technological platform involved, and the gendered production, distribution, and marketing of particular types of film; the plurality of ideologies, narratives, and themes; models covered by screen media; and in the appeal to and rejection of the situated body of the spectator and participant in that media. This approach to feminist film studies is heralded by feminist thinkers who engage technologies, notably Donna Haraway, whose entire body of work consists of an appeal to “making a difference” to the inequities of gender bias across societies. 2 The conceptualizations and representations that screen media produce and engage with offer readily identifiable sources, evidence, and archives of ideological biases in different cultural and political systems. Communicating the structures that screen media like film engages with enables both a political and cultural analysis of the screen text, and a collective reorienting experience for the student, a reorienting towards what Latour refers to as the “reassemblage of the social”, and away from what Wendy Brown (2015) identifies as the “neoliberal political imaginary” where the student was recruited for enrolment in expensive higher education for economic and not for autonomous political reasons. 3 Students are engaged with interventions that disrupt the educational economy of student-as-consumer and educator-as-service-provider 100dynamic that the neoliberal university system articulates. We have found that students are encouraged by neoliberal educational institutions to expect to be given information, and to be served by the (contingent) educators in their classroom. In advocating a politicization of this educational process via a feminist ethics of relational responsibilities, the aim is to teach students how to learn to reclaim their political situatedness in order to seek out information, and to learn how to take an active role in knowledge production. However, in the current climate, as Anna Hickey-Moody and Mary Lou Rasmussen argue, when the “personal isn’t just political: it’s marketable”, then an intervention is called for.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching Gender: Feminist Pedagogy and Responsibility in Times of Political Crisis
EditorsBeatriz Revelles-Benavente, Ana Ramos
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781315204161
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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