Presentation Title

Gender Wars as "Image-Events": Media Specularity and the Hegemony of Neoliberalism

Type of Presentation

Panel submission

Brief Description of Presentation

These three papers address the transnational feminist protest group FEMEN in digital media, the television series "Feud" in context of the "#MeToo" movement, and the framing of violent acts committed by white men in the media.

Abstract of Proposal

Gender Wars as "Image-Events"

Media Specularity and the Hegemony of Neoliberalism

Why does it take sexual exploitation of the rich and famous and a high-profile case like that of Harvey Weinstein to make Americans acknowledge workplace sexism? Why/how was that different from the very public accusations and admissions of sexual harassment via Donald Trump? What role does whiteness play in relation to our refusal to grapple with gun and domestic violence? As rhetorician Leda Cook argues, “In the postracial era, perhaps the largest hegemonic force is that of neoliberalism, which proclaims economic status as the ultimate equalizer and renders (most) all social and cultural group identities irrelevant to the acquisition of capital.” This panel explores several recent attempts—whether online, on screen, or in other national media outlets—to grapple with the monsters (sexism, ageism, racism, political corruption, mass murders, etc.) that inhabit our everyday lives and that are constructed and circulated in various media platforms.

"Our God Is Woman! Our Mission Is Protest! Our Weapons Are Bare Breasts": FEMEN and Transnational Digital Feminism

by Heather Marie Palmer

This presentation examines the transnational feminist topless protest group, FEMEN, exploring its particular brand of pop feminism and sextremism as circulated in digital spaces as "image-events." Despite the pointed antagonism towards the moral and political corruption of state institutions, government leaders, and religious orders, FEMEN fails to critique and challenge the neoliberal commodification of expression, desire, and interaction. Unable to fully harness the affective power5 that comes from the radical openness of networked spaces, FEMEN's "pop feminism" remains largely ineffectual at providing inclusive, participatory forums for effecting substantive social and political change. FEMEN insists on the practice of feminism as enmeshed with an "inevitable: consumerism uniquely harnessed in digital space. Using new materialist rhetoric as a critical framework, we'll expore how digital spaces function as direct products of neoliberal economic relations and how the subject(s) of and to oppressive systems is simultaneously marked as both the consumer and the consumed, the producer of the product and as the product itself as a way of controlling the forces of resistance.

“The Spectacle of Femininity Through the Lens of Hollywood: An Analysis of Feud in the Post-Weinstein Era.”

by Matthew Wayne Guy

This paper focuses on the 2017 series Feud, a dramatization of the bitter rivalry between the famous stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and the filming of their movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The series examines how this film came just as the two stars were battling ageism, sexism, and each other, but by doing so the series also spotlights the various intertwined forces undermining agency and identity common to most American women in the 20th century. As noted in their famous work The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, the looking-glass of the “mad Queen” from Snow White answers the question “Who is the fairest of them all?” with both a male voice and a nod toward a younger, other woman. Feud picks up on this male-voiced authority of beauty and competition within the unique context of Crawford and Davis’s feud, which was essentially forced at times by male directors and producers to facilitate creative tension on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, as well as foster the misogyny, sexual harassment, affairs, gossip and overall degradation of women that catalyzed power for the male-dominated world of Hollywood. This paper examines the series Feud in light of the current phenomena of the exposure of Hollywood’s corruption, which has pointed to the same corruption in other elements of our culture, seen in the downfall of famous politicians and journalists in the wake of Weinstein. The common element to Hollywood and the wider landscape of America and beyond is the spectacle of femininity, or how women are perceived, judged, idealized, and all to commonly subverted for the sake of power. This paper examines how an evaluation of Feud can better expose the forces that contain and undermine women’s agency and identity both within Hollywood and in the wider culture at large.

Brock Turner, Stephen Paddock, and the Monsters Next Door: How the Media Frames Monstrous Acts Committed by White Men

by Jennifer Beech

This speaker uses whiteness theory and Hannah Arendt’s “The Banality of Evil” as lenses for examining how the media frames monstrous acts committed by white men. When whiteness is the absent-present signifier of humanity, our culture seems stymied when faced with mass shootings and other horrific acts committed by supposedly “normal” white men. Of particular focus for this presentation will be media and public responses to Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, as well as to the Brock Turner rape case. This speaker argues that we must develop a critical literacy for deconstructing the reification of white culture perpetuated by the media when covering such stories of monsters within white culture.

Start Date

2-24-2018 8:10 AM

End Date

2-24-2018 9:40 AM

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Feb 24th, 8:10 AM Feb 24th, 9:40 AM

Gender Wars as "Image-Events": Media Specularity and the Hegemony of Neoliberalism

Gender Wars as "Image-Events"

Media Specularity and the Hegemony of Neoliberalism

Why does it take sexual exploitation of the rich and famous and a high-profile case like that of Harvey Weinstein to make Americans acknowledge workplace sexism? Why/how was that different from the very public accusations and admissions of sexual harassment via Donald Trump? What role does whiteness play in relation to our refusal to grapple with gun and domestic violence? As rhetorician Leda Cook argues, “In the postracial era, perhaps the largest hegemonic force is that of neoliberalism, which proclaims economic status as the ultimate equalizer and renders (most) all social and cultural group identities irrelevant to the acquisition of capital.” This panel explores several recent attempts—whether online, on screen, or in other national media outlets—to grapple with the monsters (sexism, ageism, racism, political corruption, mass murders, etc.) that inhabit our everyday lives and that are constructed and circulated in various media platforms.

"Our God Is Woman! Our Mission Is Protest! Our Weapons Are Bare Breasts": FEMEN and Transnational Digital Feminism

by Heather Marie Palmer

This presentation examines the transnational feminist topless protest group, FEMEN, exploring its particular brand of pop feminism and sextremism as circulated in digital spaces as "image-events." Despite the pointed antagonism towards the moral and political corruption of state institutions, government leaders, and religious orders, FEMEN fails to critique and challenge the neoliberal commodification of expression, desire, and interaction. Unable to fully harness the affective power5 that comes from the radical openness of networked spaces, FEMEN's "pop feminism" remains largely ineffectual at providing inclusive, participatory forums for effecting substantive social and political change. FEMEN insists on the practice of feminism as enmeshed with an "inevitable: consumerism uniquely harnessed in digital space. Using new materialist rhetoric as a critical framework, we'll expore how digital spaces function as direct products of neoliberal economic relations and how the subject(s) of and to oppressive systems is simultaneously marked as both the consumer and the consumed, the producer of the product and as the product itself as a way of controlling the forces of resistance.

“The Spectacle of Femininity Through the Lens of Hollywood: An Analysis of Feud in the Post-Weinstein Era.”

by Matthew Wayne Guy

This paper focuses on the 2017 series Feud, a dramatization of the bitter rivalry between the famous stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and the filming of their movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The series examines how this film came just as the two stars were battling ageism, sexism, and each other, but by doing so the series also spotlights the various intertwined forces undermining agency and identity common to most American women in the 20th century. As noted in their famous work The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, the looking-glass of the “mad Queen” from Snow White answers the question “Who is the fairest of them all?” with both a male voice and a nod toward a younger, other woman. Feud picks up on this male-voiced authority of beauty and competition within the unique context of Crawford and Davis’s feud, which was essentially forced at times by male directors and producers to facilitate creative tension on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, as well as foster the misogyny, sexual harassment, affairs, gossip and overall degradation of women that catalyzed power for the male-dominated world of Hollywood. This paper examines the series Feud in light of the current phenomena of the exposure of Hollywood’s corruption, which has pointed to the same corruption in other elements of our culture, seen in the downfall of famous politicians and journalists in the wake of Weinstein. The common element to Hollywood and the wider landscape of America and beyond is the spectacle of femininity, or how women are perceived, judged, idealized, and all to commonly subverted for the sake of power. This paper examines how an evaluation of Feud can better expose the forces that contain and undermine women’s agency and identity both within Hollywood and in the wider culture at large.

Brock Turner, Stephen Paddock, and the Monsters Next Door: How the Media Frames Monstrous Acts Committed by White Men

by Jennifer Beech

This speaker uses whiteness theory and Hannah Arendt’s “The Banality of Evil” as lenses for examining how the media frames monstrous acts committed by white men. When whiteness is the absent-present signifier of humanity, our culture seems stymied when faced with mass shootings and other horrific acts committed by supposedly “normal” white men. Of particular focus for this presentation will be media and public responses to Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, as well as to the Brock Turner rape case. This speaker argues that we must develop a critical literacy for deconstructing the reification of white culture perpetuated by the media when covering such stories of monsters within white culture.