Brain Leaks: Fear & Femininity
related post: Girl Antagonists In Cinema
I’ve noticed that a lot of my favorite films, books, videos and works of art have to do with a fear of the mystical/”unknown” aspects of femininity.
Frequently, the content creator is preoccupied with his/her discomfort around femininity and is outright with it or tries to disguise it with symbolism.
I recently stumbled onto this video on Vimeo called “ÐšÐ£Ð‘Ð˜ÐšÐ˜” that is visually striking. I can’t understand what is being said but it keeps cutting to a feminine face and a doll who is rapidly undressed in stop-motion, covered in in a tar-like substance and then burned.
The first time I thought about femininity in a “scary way” was when I saw the episode of “DuckTales” called “Home Sweet Homer” about a Siren-like creature. The gang is sailing and Scrooge McDuck becomes enchanted by three women in the distance who are singing “Pennies, nickles, quarters, dimes — Come to us, while there’s still time!” He almost ends up being killed. Seeing these feminine figures suddenly become a gross monster was something that really struck me. The realization that femininity could be constructed as a guise to distract for hidden purposes was both disturbing and kind of empowering.
That show was awesome, FTW.
What is it about representations of femininity contrasted with extreme violence that affect us in such a strong way?
I could never quite put my finger on exactly why that hallway scene in The Shining was so disturbing to me. Now I think I know why — Aside from the implied fact that they were ghosts who (in their previous life) had been murdered by their father, it was their interaction with the little boy that bothered me so much.
“Hello, Danny. Come and play with us.” They stood side by side, immobile at the end of the hallway. Unlike him, they were not afraid. They didn’t seem to realize they were dead.
We then saw rapid cuts of what Danny sees – the girls lying in the hallway, covered in blood. The scene keep cutting back and forth between their butchered bodies to rapidly encroaching shots of the girls staring straight ahead, not moving a muscle.
“Come and play with us, Danny. Forever, and ever, and ever…”
Danny covered his face in horror. The contrast is too much.
In Shutter Island, there were similar shots — a blood-soaked little girl who can walk around and talk to the protagonist.
Throughout history, the ruling class in every nation created laws at some point that rid society of “abnormal” women (see Salem Witch Trials) and to justify injustices in the name of protecting femininity (see History of Lynching).
Conflicting ideas about mystical/”unknown” aspects of femininity and our desire to protect/preserve femininity are threads that will continue to be played out in the arts.
In related news, The New School is finally recognizing their Gender Studies Program.
Initially to be based at Lang College, the Gender Studies Program of The New School serves all undergraduate divisions. Lang students minoring in Gender Studies will take six courses, distributed as set forth in this requirement doc. Courses are chosen in consultation with the Director of the Program. Students must submit a plan to the program director for their course of study when they declare the minor.
To celebrate the return, there will be a a two day conference featuring various well known gender studies experts.
DATE: Friday, March 26th 6 PM -9 PM and all day Saturday, March 27th
LOCATION: Theresa Lang Center – 55. W. 13th St. (NYC)
Just a few of the themes to be addressed include the task of historicizing feminism, including the particular history of Gender Studies at the New School; continuity and rupture across feminist generations; the impact of feminism on research methodologies in the social sciences; gender and design; the relationship between scholarship and activism; dilemmas in the project of institutionalizing Gender Studies; and gendered structural and institutional policies in the New School university.
I am looking forward to listening to information provided by the following panelists (there are more, but these are the ones I am psyched about):
* Susan Faludi, author of Backlash and The Terror Dream
* Bonnie Thornton Dill, Professor and Chair of the Womenâ€™s Studies Department and Program and Direction of the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity at the University of Maryland
* Judith Halberstam, Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Gender Studies at USC and author of In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (2005)
* Valerie Smith, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature, Department of English, Princeton Center for African American Studies
Fan Gender Studies at The New School on Facebook to stay updated on conference details and other news.