Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Birth of a Nation - Lit Review

A couple of weeks ago, every single Republican Senator voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would make it easier for women to receive equal pay as men at work. Not only was this an unanimous vote, there are four female Republican Senators in Congress, which means that four women voted against equal pay for their own gender. It may seem a little ridiculous and counter-productive, but today's society is very much ridiculous and counter-productive, especially when it comes to women's rights. There has been a very intense feminist movement all around the world, and it has been very evident in today's media, such as television shows, movies, and magazines. One of the biggest themes of today's melodrama in media is feminism, whether it's pro-feminism or anti-feminism.

I am, and hopefully it goes without saying, a feminist. I not only believe in equal rights for both genders, but I believe that females shouldn't be blamed for being raped, that they shouldn't be objectified to fit society's standards, and that they should be able to wear whatever they want without people saying that her outfit is inappropriate or "distracting." I feel as though a lot of what society bases its stereotypes and judgements on is media. As Jackie Byars said in All that Hollywood Allows, "films had detrimental effects on real women and argued for more positive representation of women"  (pg. 25). For example, Disney princesses are portrayed to be weak and in need of a prince to save them; it teaches girls at a young age that they need boys to survive. In movies and books, girls are often portrayed as losers if they're smart and "nerdy," or as mean girls if they are confident and strong. There's no winning no matter what you are or how you act, society will always find something wrong. Girls are slut-shamed more than guys are, there are women-specific insults, and yet, through all of this, girls are the "villains." Girls are pitted against each other for no reason at all, everything is made a competition between them, and it distracts from who the real bad guy is, society, and usually men (not every man, but more likely than not, they are the root behind feminist issues). Yes, there are a lot of issues when it comes to media and feminism. However, that's beginning to change. Women are learning how to fight back. People are using strong women roles to make a statement and to represent the feminist movement in society. As Patricia Evans said in Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, "feminist film critics in the United States continue[d] to regard film as a vehicle for personal change and political activism." (pg. xvii).

 Many films and television shows are starting to star very strong and intelligent lead female characters. There is the ever popular Harry Potter series with Hermione Granger, the Hunger Games trilogy with Katniss Everdeen, and of course, Game of Thrones with Khaleesi. They are very prominent and very inspiring roles, and females every where and of all ages look up to them. Not to mention, celebrities are taking a stand for feminism, and everyone knows of the influence they have on society. Even recently, Emma Watson (the actress behind Hermione Granger) started a feminist movement #HeForShe, in which she asks males to take a stand as well and fight for gender equality.

Feminism and women's right have come a very long way from where it was at the beginning of society. We recognize that feminism is such a huge and controversial issue in society because of how media portrays women. "It is on the level of what underlies the daily, conscious actions that representations exist and that we can uncover the mythic signifieds of a culture." (pg. 16, E Ann Kaplan, Motherhood and Presentation). The movement is very similar to the old racial movement, and what Linda Williams wrote about The Birth of a Nation. The movie was meant to bring the white Americans together against a common enemy, the African Americans, and nowadays, media is trying to bring women together to fight other women. As Marcia Landy said, "most often, threatening aspects of experience are concealed in order to be entertained" (pg. 20 Imitations of Life: a reader on film & television melodrama).

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