Friday, October 1, 2010

"Ain't I a Feminist?"

Before starting this video essay, we presented our ideas in class. After expressing what I wanted to do someone asked me, "What's your stake in all of this?" This person wondered what my stake or role was in feminism. Where did I stand? and more specifically, how would my video idea address these issues.

I have to thank this person, for I had the usual answers to "Why are you passionate about feminism?" like: "Equality is a human issue" or "Oppression is something we all need to work against regardless of our gender." Now, because of this video essay (and my thoughtful classmate) I can now vocalize my true feelings. I am involved and passionate about feminism because I am a contradiction. I am a man who is passionate about Women's Liberation. I am a man who works to end the discriminatory practices created to destroy equality, I am a man who calls himself a feminist. I am a white man that is socially and culturally embedded with the "patriarchal power" that we read about. Being the contradiction empowers me to work harder, to make sure that in everything I do, the embedded social and cultural hierarchies that are embedded within me, are broken down.

I have a responsibility and it's to make sure that in whatever I choose to do that I always remember how harmful oppression is and how easy it is to simply become the problem rather than work against it.

I want to make sure that people understand that in my essay it is not my belief that "Girls Gone Wild" is necessarily a bad thing. By juxtaposing this imagery with the empowering speech by Alice Walker (who is reading Sojourner's Truth "Ain't I a Woman") I hope to express a different opinion than that of a man simply objectifying women via his gaze and simply being another man saying "You worked so hard for the vote and look what you do with it now." If I were to do this, I would simply be falling back in the power/privilege role I struggle with daily as a male feminist. I would no longer be trying to solve the problem but adding to it.

More importantly, I want to pose the question, aren't the women in the "Girls Gone Wild" videos still women and/or feminist? The answer I am afraid is hard to realize. As feminists we are granted a very politicized gaze and we are critical of how the male, objectifying gaze hurts women. More so, if we see this video as men simply abusing their power and gaze to appease the masculine world with hyper-sexualized imagery, then yes, I do believe there is something COMPLETELY wrong with this video.

However, on the other hand as feminists we have to see this video as something else, something no women could do prior to the 21st century. Women worked hard to obtain equal rights and that too means being able to, like men, bare all if they so choose too. The problem is not whether or not they choose too it is the very gaze that is acted upon them as a result. Do these women too then fall victim to a female gaze as well?

Women worked hard for the vote in MANY different ways to achieve MANY different outcomes and one of these outcomes does mean being able to bare all. They are still women, they are still powerful, they are still voices that need to be heard. Can these videos be empowering to women? I think that they are. Upon asking some friends, they look at the Girls Gone Wild videos and say: "I will never let that happen to me." Instead they conclude, "I will use my power as a woman to get a job once held by a man or get a higher degree in education so that my life is not dependent on my spouse/partner/or husband." In a twisted way, these videos are empowering for they ensure that other women, who view them as objectifying, don't fall into the trap of the male gaze.

It was my hope to prove this by then moving away from the Girls Gone Wild into more contemporary women's rights movement activities. By showing how women from all walks of life have used the right to vote and be heard publicly. It was my intention to end the video by stating too that if these women, who worked so hard to change the world want to be heard or represented, then the MEN who work to objectify or subject women to social ideals of beauty or sexuality, better let them because the women's right's movement is powerful with or without "Girls Gone Wild."