Cinema Studies: Ladies being taught by ladies about men

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I think my University is great. I am so glad I get to attend, and am able to study what I love with my cinema studies major. However, halfway through my undergraduate degree, I want to bring up a point I noticed about 3 weeks into my cinema studies subject at the start of this year. The subject was about Hollywood and how the film industry has changed from the 60s to present. It was quite an enjoyable and interesting subject. But it was also, to put it one way, a sausage fest.

Out of four “teachers” for the subject, two were male and two were female. One woman was the subject co-ordinator and lecturer, and the other was my tutor. In my tutorial, majority of students were also female. My friends and I (all girls) were not afraid to speak up and dominate the discussion if we had something to say. These observations made me incredibly happy, as it shows the future of the film and film studies industries being challenged as a male-dominated industry. However, this was not reflected in the academia side of things.

Every film we studied was directed by a male, had male-dominated crews and casts. While we studied great films such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Dirty Harry (1971) and Taxi Driver (1976), all films had a male lead for a male dominated story.  The most women we saw in a semi-lead or lead role made up a total of 4 out of 12 films: Bonnie and Clyde, Jurassic Park (1993), Gravity (2013), and Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2, (2003/04) 

4 out of 12 films.

Most of the theorists and readings we engaged with were also male. My teachers may have been female, but the subject was taught through the male voice. Obviously, I understand the context in which the films we studied were made and the time periods we looked at. Female directors have always been significantly low in number, but choosing some films with more female characters surely wouldn’t have been that hard? Or at least some acknowledgement of some feminist film theory approach to the films studied (or other films). At least for a week, even, like in my Introduction to Cinema Studies last year.

I loved studying Thelma and Louise (1991), and while I may have shuddered at the “monstrous feminine” and “castration anxiety” of feminist film theory last year, I did write my exam on the approach, and it has been valuable to my education and knowledge as I can now recognise these traits in many films that I may watch in the future. 
BUT, is it too hard to ask that maybe we could have spent a week or two expanding on these areas in relation to the Hollywood system?

I enjoyed the subject, I really did. But I am just disappointed. There is no subject dedicated specifically to feminist film in our first or second years. I have high hopes for a third year subject on sex and gender on screen, but surely, until then, each subject should draw some ladies into the discussion, even for a week. Because quite honestly, you get tired of hearing about what guys think after a while. Especially since I have so many female classmates and tutors, it is upsetting that we are not provided the representation we deserve to see. 

I am taking two more cinema studies subjects this year, so fingers crossed we hear and see more from ladies there.

In the meantime, what are some of your favourite female-dominated movies, from the late 20th century or now. I'd love to hear them!

- Claire
1 comment on "Cinema Studies: Ladies being taught by ladies about men"
  1. This is such a good point, it's so disappointing that the curriculum for cinema subjects is really not in touch with the demographic of students taking the course. As for female dominated films, I think my favourite from the last few years must be Mad Max: Fury Road. Finally, a truly kick-ass female heroine, who did not have to concede to the typical white-boy action hero. However, I do find it unbelievable that so few films in the last few years have been able to portray women so well, considering the rising tide of feminist activism hitting Hollywood.