Feminism Now and Then: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex

Charlotte Kessler | 26 June 2017.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the best known contemporary feminists; she is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and feminist theory. In 2014, she published her essay We Should All Be Feminists after giving a Tedx talk on her approach to feminism and followed it up with her feminist manifesto Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions in March 2017. Written as a letter to a friend, and recommending how to raise her newborn girl, Dear Ijeawele makes powerful statements about feminism today. Issues addressed in Dear Ijeawele resemble those raised in Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist classic The Second Sex, published in 1948. I will examine how Adichie has furthered de Beauvoir’s feminist thought and made it more inclusive and therefore better suited to contemporary feminism. Adichie echoes, whether consciously or unconsciously, arguments made by de Beauvoir in The Second Sex about childhood, the mother and marriage.

Read Article →

The (Ignored) Feminist Heroes of Wonder Woman

Scheherazade Khan | 13 June 2017

Warning : Spoilers ahead for Wonder Woman (2017)

Though box office ratings and some critiques seem to suggest that Wonder Woman is finally giving a female role the appropriate attention, I join with other critics who argue that the movie itself failed to deliver on the hope that it would be a feminist dream. For me, Wonder Woman suggests that the only way for female superheroes to be successful is to mimic traditionally male roles. That is, having adventures, engaging in physical violence while proclaiming superior – if not slightly naïve – moral standards, all while wearing absurdly tight clothing that seems like it would be a hindrance when fighting for one’s life. In comparison, the working women in the movie (of which there are a grand total of two) are used either as comic relief or for nefarious purposes.

Read Article →

I Wish I Was a Girl: Counting Crows and Clarity

Bradley Copper | 15 May 2017

The patriarchal trope of using a woman in order to explain some woeful truth about a man is of course a damagingly old one. This sexist setup, in which women are one-dimensionally portrayed so as to help a speaker come to some conclusion about himself or his world, while never honouring their experience, is a genric cornerstone that remains in so much literature to the present day. American rock band Counting Crows adopt a version of this trope in constructing femaleness or womanness—the songs are predictably not definitionally specific on this point—as a signifier of clarity. The band’s frontman and lyricist Adam Duritz imagines the women characters in his songs as being able to speak directly about their emotions in a way that he as a man cannot.

Read Article →

A Few Reasons Why Not

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | 1 May 2017

[tw: discussions of suicide and rape]

Netflix’ recent series, 13 Reasons Why, has been subject to a wide chasm in reception. The story follows a teenage boy, Clay, as he listens to the tapes left by his friend and love interest Hannah, detailing the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. The show depicts Hannah’s fights with friends, her parents’ financial troubles, her experiences of bullying, misogyny, and rape by fellow students, and, very graphically, her suicide. Given this wide chasm, what are some of the main critiques of the show and what problems does it engender?

Read Article →

Rap au féminin: What can France’s female hip hop scene teach us about identity politics?

Ellen Davis-Walker | 25 April 2017

Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 box office sensation La Haine has long been credited with propelling French hip hop on to the global stage. Drawing on original material by Ministère AMER, NTM and MC Solaar, the film’s soundtrack managed to capture the sonic traces of social unrest on the fringes of French society. Whilst France’s victory in the 1997 FIFA World Cup seemed to mark a momentary coming- together around the inclusive slogan ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ (Black, White, Arab), the contentious and fractured question of national identity has continued to dominate the country’s musical and political landscape ever since.

The emergence of rap au féminin (female rap) over the past decade marked a significant step in the development of multi-faceted ‘French’ identity. While anglophone female artists of the early 2000s were predominantly focused on debunking “the sexual and material objectification faced by women in the industry,” this article will ask how rap au féminin has offered artists the possibility to explore both what it meant to be a woman in this period, and what it meant (and still means) to be French.

Read Article →

Finally, A Final Girl for the Twenty-First Century

Vicki Madden | 3 April 2017.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good Final Girl. As a long-time horror film devotee, this unique figure has fascinated me ever since I first encountered her in the form of Alien’s Ellen Ripley. As Ripley shows us, the Final Girl is a bad-ass – she’s the last woman standing who’s left to defeat the monster through sheer wit and ingenuity (though occasionally, she still requires a man to rescue her – a trait inherited from the classic gothic stories of yore, no doubt). The Final Girl, as Carol Clover first described her in her seminal essay “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film” (1987), is “intelligent, watchful, level-headed; the first character to sense something amiss and the only one to deduce from the accumulating evidence the patterns and extent of the threat [1].” In other words, the Final Girl is the audience’s point of identification – we root for her because, unlike almost everyone else in a horror film, she knows what’s up and she’s prepared to do something about it.

Read Article →

A Host of Questions: Artificial Agency in Westworld

Maria Torres-Quevedo | 20th February 2016.

Trigger Warning: Rape, Violence.

Westworld (2016) depicts a sci-fi not-too-distant future in which humans have mastered the art of artificial intelligence, and have used this to create a Western-style theme park in which real humans (almost exclusively white men) from the real world can live out their fantasies consequence-free with “non-human” robots.

The park ostensibly serves to allow its human patrons to “find themselves,” revealing their real desires in an environment designed to cater specifically to them. More interesting to me, however, is the self-discovery exemplified by the two female robots (hosts) around which much of the narrative centres.

Read Article →

Rooms of One’s Own: Teenage Bedrooms in Film  

Katie Goh | 6 February 2017

Juno’s hamburger phone. Cher’s computerized wardrobe. Ferris Bueller’s Union Jack. Regina George’s PRINCESS four poster bed. As memorable as the characters, the teen movie bedroom set has become iconic in pop culture. Spaces of rebellion, creativity, and conflict, the bedroom functions as a visual indicator of a teenager’s personality as it is the only space wholly their own.

Read Article →

See No Evil: The Legitimisation of Violence Against Women in Hollywood

Harry Leonard | 23 January 2017.

{Warning: discussions of domestic and sexual assault}

On 28 May 2016, Amber Heard was granted a temporary restraining order against husband Johnny Depp amidst allegations of domestic assault. Seventeen years earlier, Nate Parker was acquitted of raping a woman when it emerged that, prior to the time in question, he had had consensual sex with his accuser. The ramifications of these charges re-emerged in 2016 for Parker when he was promoting his directorial debut Birth of a Nation. It is not my intention to equate the two cases but to compare them; to question the nature of the systems of privilege that explain Depp’s continued success and Parker’s condemnation.

Read Article →

Taylor Swift and the ‘Rules of Feminism’

Kitty Ruskin | 9th January 2017.

Many will remember Gretchen Weiner’s often quoted phrase from Mean Girls that dating friends’ ex-boyfriends is ‘off limits’, as per ‘the rules of feminism’. A few months ago, in the midst of the backlash against Taylor Swift, this line came back to me. I took a moment to consider exactly why Gretchen’s line stands out to me in this context, particularly as a feminist in 2016.

Read Article →