Feminist. Media. Criticism. Is. (Part 2)

December 11, 2012
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A manifesta for feminist media criticismA manifesta for feminist media criticism. Click here for part 1.

Because we are committed to critically analyzing systems of power in all their forms—but especially with regard to gender and media culture—and we want others to be as well.

Because we believe our culture and society can be better, and we can play an active role in transforming them.

Because we share in the fight to end oppression so all individuals everywhere can be who they want to be and reach their potential happily and without suffering.

Because we believe that biology is not destiny, that gender and other identity norms are socially constructed, and that they can and should be deconstructed.

Because we are angry at a society that continues to tell us that a woman’s first priority is to be sexy, that to be smart is to be unattractive, and that feminism is no longer necessary and/or that feminist = anti-male, feminist = humorless, and feminist = nazi.

Because too many of our female students, colleagues, and friends say, “I’m not a feminist,” despite acknowledging they want equality with men and don’t experience it in many aspects of their lives.

Because there are not more men who are willing to join our fight.

Because we refuse to assimilate to someone else’s standards of what makes a good scholar, teacher, artist, writer, activist, citizen, consumer, or person.

Because we understand the media industries as comprising the most powerful and influential social institution today, and they traffic in normative values harmful to many.

Because we want to destroy the domination of global media culture by those who want us to keep consuming whatever they churn out, buying whatever their sponsors are shilling, ignoring politics, hating ourselves, and competing with each other rather than producing our own media, working to end oppression, fighting for social justice, loving ourselves, and supporting each other.

Because we want more movies, TV shows, songs, games, websites, comics, radio programs, and news stories that don’t infantilize, hypersexualize, demonize, exoticize, marginalize, exclude, or demean us—or anyone else.

Because we value our media tastes and pleasures and want them affirmed rather than ignored for those of a more lucrative market.

Because we are troubled that popular culture has become more focused on sex and violence than when feminist media criticism emerged four decades ago.

Because women in the news are consistently discussed in relation to their appearance, and men hardly ever are.

Because we are frustrated that women are always seen as women first, and whatever other role we have is secondary.

Because Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to have earned the Academy Award for Best Director, and because most people don’t even know who Kathryn Bigelow is.

Because so many female characters on television are victims of assault and murder, and because so many girl characters are motherless and sisterless.

Because women-made and women-themed movies are considered “niche.”

Because the privileged role for girl musicians is still the sexy vocalist, and playing instruments continues to be seen as a “guy thing.”

Because many journalists see “women’s issues” as not serious and apolitical and thus ghettoize them in the Life and Style section of newspapers.

Because we know reading/watching/hearing/writing/doing things that validate and challenge us can help us to build the knowledge, strength, and community we need to overcome the sexism, racism, classism, ageism, heterocentrism, able-bodieism, thinism, and xenophobia writ large, which structure our lives, our communities, and our culture.

Because we understand the power of media as tools for documenting lives, expressing creativity, exploring identity, and building community, and we want all people to have equal access to those tools and those powers.

Because we are committed to supporting feminist, queer, and anti-racist media producers and know that doing so is integral to changing our society for the better.

Because many media studies programs do not have classes specifically devoted to exploring gender in media culture.

Because so many media history and production classes continue to focus on the Great White Men of Celluloid, of Video, of the Air, of the Tubes, of the Internet, of Gaming, and of Comics . . . and privilege the work of only the male scholars who write about them.

Because so many girls, parents, and teachers the world over don’t see media production as a worthwhile profession for women, and males continue to dominate both production programs and the media industries at all levels.

Because female media critics and producers tend to earn less and are promoted less than their male peers, and women are more affected by contingent labor practices than are men.

Because we know being multiply oppressed as a result of sexuality, race, or ability makes all this much, much, much more difficult.

Because we are encouraged to remain quiet or tone down our activist rhetoric and activities to get better teaching evaluations, promotion reviews, and salary increases.

Because we know the heart of academic life is about participating in critical debates started many years before us, about having our beliefs and expectations challenged, about facilitating learning in community with others, and about mentoring others so they can develop as participatory citizens, discerning consumers, and genuinely nice people.

Because we are interested in creating ways of learning, teaching, mentoring, administrating, and sharing research that privilege collaboration and communication over competition and celebrity.

Because we want to make it easier for feminist media scholars to read and hear each other’s work so we can share strategies and resources, critique each other, and support one another.

Because we honor, draw strength from, and want to continue the work of older feminist media critics, and because we desire to teach, mentor, and collaborate with younger scholars who will do the same, until such a time when that work is no longer necessary.

And, last but not least:

Because we believe, with all our hearts/minds/bodies, that progressive change is necessary, that progressive change is possible, and that feminist media critics constitute a revolutionary force that transforms academia and popular culture—for real.

(Photo by Michael Kackman – phobject.com.)


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3 Responses to “ Feminist. Media. Criticism. Is. (Part 2) ”

  1. Alexis Carreiro on December 12, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Thanks Mary. I love the ” bad-ass, scabby-kneed, chukka-boot-wearing, kick-ball-loving little Mary Celeste deep inside” you, and I’m so happy that she inspired you to write this. As one of your former students, you’ve been such an inspiration to so many of us over the years. You inspired me before I went to UT and while I was there (though my M.A. and Ph.D.). Now, even as a junior scholar in North Carolina – I think about you often. My mantra is “WWMKD” (what would Mary Kearney do?) because you carry this manifesto within you and I want to carry it alongside you. Rock on, woman.

  2. Brea Grant on December 13, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Hell yeah.

  3. Sharon Ross on December 16, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    Loving this, Ms. Kearney! I applaud the manifesto and applaud the call to historicization, as I believe that we cannot possibly understand the girls and women of today otherwise–and the boys and men to-boot! It’s invigorating to read this, and heartening to know there’s an educator “out there” committed to painting the full picture of yesterday, today–and tomorrow.